Casa De Mi Padre is a game of comedy chicken between the audience and the creators. It dares to hold back as much as possible, going several minutes without a single obvious joke. Most of the audience will be baffled, but I found this experiment strangely charming.
Will Farrell stars as Armando, son of a farmer and brother to a drug dealer. He wishes to own his father's farm one day, but his family is entangled in cartel dealings. The film is set in Mexico, and as such it is almost entirely in Spanish with subtitles. This is important.
In a time when films are remade to avoid forcing those annoying subtitles on mainstream audiences, Casa De Mi Padre is experimental from square one. The tagline, “Funniest movie you'll ever read,” is more or less a challenge that most viewers can't be bothered to take up.
It also definitely isn't the funniest movie I've ever "read" (that title would have to go to the French film, OSS117: Cairo, Nest of Spies). The film skirts around the difficult task of creating a hilarious foreign language comedy and instead aims for the kind of offbeat comedy you'd expect to see on Adult Swim. The laughs are almost never in the foreground or the immediate dialogue between characters, but in the awkward cinematic goofs and cheap special effects.
Entire scenes pass without a single real joke. For the most part the plot of Casa De Mi Padre is a typical tale of revenge and love with intentionally poor acting. Will Farrell, ever the comedian, can only really play it so straight, but it still borders on non-comedy at times.
Schizophrenic may be the best word, for as much as Casa De Mi Padre takes itself too seriously, it also prominently features a ridiculous tiger puppet designed by Jim Henson Studios. Sometimes it's just a straight up spoof comedy, and other times it dwells on the same kind of repetitious humor used in Tim & Eric sketches.
It was a very strange movie-going experience. The majority of my fellow audience would guffaw at the laziest mention of farts, desperately grasping at whatever humor they could find to justify the ticket price. More often I'd be one of a few laughing at an obvious painted background or weird mannequins replacing extras in a scene. Occasionally we'd meet in the middle—a sex scene involving relentless ass groping is one of the most plainly hilarious bits in the film.
It's definitely not for everyone, but if you're far enough down the comedy rabbit hole, there's a lot to love about Casa De Mi Padre. It can be boring and unfunny for long stretches, but it's usually just asking more of its audience than the typical comedy does. Even beyond the subtitles gimmick, this film does not deliver comedy on a silver platter. You must hunt it down, making for a strangely satisfying experience that is absolutely not for everyone.