Movie Review: Double Feature Special
March 14, 2012
This is a big week for movie releases and there’s quite an assortment from which to choose. In the mood for some laughter myself, I’ll give you a glimpse of two of my favorite films of 2012, both opening March 16th - CASA DE MI PADRE and, the funniest film of the year, 21 JUMP STREET.
CASA DE MI PADRE
Admittedly not a big Will Ferrell fan, suffice it to say that when I tell you that CASA DE MI PADRE is flawlessly funny and absurdly hilarious, you can take it to the bank that it is. So entertaining is CASA that during my interview with Will Ferrell, I was already begging him for a sequel. From the opening credits, director Matt Piedmont and writer Andrew Steele weave an homage to Sergio Leone and his spaghetti westerns, Tarantino and Rodriguez, 30's and 40's dramatic turns, the beloved styling of Mexican telenovelas and the comedy and hilarity of an SNL sketch, which when put together give us a perfectly book-learned Spanish speaking Will Ferrell and some of the funniest and cheesiest entertainment to come along in awhile. And the fact the film is played for straight only adds to the comedic tone.
Brothers Armando and Raul Alvarez are as different as night and day. Raul is a man of the world and clearly the favorite son of patriarch Miquel Ernesto Alvarez. Armando, polite, courteous and ever the gentleman, is not the brightest bulb in the box, yet is dedicated to his father and brother, staying at home and working the family’s ranch in Mexico. Continually belittled and mocked by his father for not being “smart” and for being a (gasp!) virgin, Armando appears to ignore the insults and only tries harder to please everyone.
When we meet Armando, he is with his two compadres, out overlooking the Alvarez “herd” and family spread. Of course the herd is perhaps 10 head of cattle which is only a hint of the comedic tone of things to come. But while the boys are watching and waiting, they get a glimpse of famed drug lord, La Onza, committing a heinous execution. A very bad thing to see, Armando thinks its time to head back to the ranch so, in true “Bonanza” style the boys hop on their trusty steeds and race back home. Loser mucks the stalls. So stylized with “sneak and peak”, horse barn, rock hiding, etc., I was expecting to see Adam, Hoss and Little Joe riding up at any minute.
But what happens when Raul returns home with the stunning Sonia, the woman he intends to marry. Needless to say, Sonia turns Armando’s head and while Sonia and Armando get to know each other - as all good in-laws should do - Armando also learns a few things about Raul. Seems that Raul has made his own fortune as a major drug dealer and is in direct competition with the unscrupulous La Onza. Adding a little more spice is the fact is Sonia’s relationship with La Onza. Will Sonia leave Raul for Armando? Will Armando tattle on Raul to their father? Will Raul and La Onza shoot it out for the title of King of the Drug Lords? Will Armando continue to speak perfectly “usted” proper Spanish, making every Spanish teacher in the English-speaking world proud?
The result is sheer hilarity. Played with over-the-top seriocomic stoicism of a telenovela, dialogue is simplistic and written so any dolt can understand. Special effects are fake - fake white leopard, fake horses, fake backgrounds, fake rocks, fake flowers. And a drug dealer using dial phones? All of it just adds to the fun of the film and screams kitchy and kool.
And the acting? Beyond hilarious. There are no words for Will Ferrell. As Armando, he camps and plays, picking up every exaggeration we have ever seen in Tarantino and Rodriguez films, telenovellas, romcoms......and every close-up of his eyes just make me laugh even harder.
Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, as Raul and La Onza, respectively, just go for it and are pure gold. Bernal is so over the top you can’t help but laugh (and his white polyester costume with 4" hem had me in "stitches" every time they zoomed in to catch the boot.) Luna plays Raul to the hilt and manages to be likeable, despicable and funny all at the same time.
Then we have Genesis Rodriguez as Sonia. Recently seen in “Man On A Ledge” where she blows you away with her timing and delivery, Rodriguez is a veteran of many Mexican telenovelas and it was while filming CASA DE MI PADRE that she cut her comedic chops. Given her experience in the telenovela format, she shines with authenticity as she rides her fake horse wearing her petite white crocheted gloves and over-exaggerating her dialogue and physical expressiveness.
Very poignant is Pedro Armendariz, Jr. as Senor Alvarez. In what would prove to be his final performance before his recent passing, Armendariz is perfect, playing some aspects with straight drama and then complete camp. What a swan song for this amazing actor.
Costuming is superb and superbly funny - Sonia's frilly white gloves, Armando's heroic white toreador costume with the red insets in the pant pleats, 70's polyester suits on La Onza and Raul. Sonia's costumes ran the gamut from a dated senorita or flamenco dancer to 21st century slutty. Notable is that Will Ferrell's pants are the ones made by Levi that stuntmen and actors in westerns have been wearing for decades. For years, they could only be purchased Nudie's and there wasn't any self-respecting rider in a John Wayne movie that didn't wear that style and brand. A great touch that probably no one but me will ever notice!
A sure fire laugh riot, CASA DE MI PADRE will have you rolling in the aisles from beginning to end - and I do mean “end”. Stay through all the credits for an added treat.
21 JUMP STREET
Looking for even more laughter? Then jump on over to 21 JUMP STREET. This is THE FUNNIEST FILM OF THE YEAR. A devotee of the original “21 Jump Street” tv series that catapulted the career of Johnny Depp, I never envisioned a translation of the series to a big screen comedy. Didn’t think it even possible. Not only is it possible, but 21 JUMP STREET is the most raucous, rowdy, riotous, raunchy and ridiculously funny film of the year. Even moreso than with “Casa De Mi Padre”, I belly-laughed and guffawed from beginning to end. And the kicker of it all, 21 JUMP STREET is also filled with heart and camaraderie, not to mention references to everything pop culture has to offer for the past 30 years. Oh yeah.....and it has the best cameo performances ever seen on film!! Bar none.
One of the most unlikely, but inspired pairings, to hit the silver screen, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are Schmidt and Jenko, respectively. high school seniors in 2005, each has his own angst to deal with. For Schmidt, it’s his Eminem-influenced style meshed with braces, klutziness and honor roll nerdiness. As for Jenko, he is the epitome of a Ken doll. Tall, handsome, athletic, chick magnet, but a cocky, ignorant, jackass.
Fast forward to 2012 and our boys are struggling in life. Schmidt is still living at home with his parents, trying to fit in and find a career. Jenko has learned that you need some brains to go with the brawn. Not seeing each other since high school, imagine their surprise when they reconnect at training for the Metro City Police Department.
Ultimately making it through the Academy and graduating, Schmidt and Jenko are partnered and put on a beat - a bicycle beat in the park, near ponds, with children and senior citizens. Wanting some excitement and anxious to make an arrest, hilarity ensues when they see a gang of bikers smoking pot. Needless to say, they botch the arrest (Jenko never learned the Miranda) and are kicked over to Jump Street. Designed for high school undercover work, long-dormant Jump Street has been reactivated thanks to a fresh break-out of teen trouble and a new hallucinogenic drug on the market.
Helmed by the foul-mouthed, fast-talking Captain Dickson, our boys are assigned to pose as brothers and return to high school, a prospect that frightens Schmidt and elates Jenko. Their assignment - infiltrate the drug operation first though the dealer and then the distributor. And there’s a caveat - Under no circumstances are they to do anything to get expelled. With 30 days left in the semester, the clock is ticking which means the boys have got to get a jump on things - and fast. But their first problem, how do you fit in now when you didn’t fit in before?
As I said, this is inspired casting, particularly with Channing Tatum. We expect adroit comedic performance from Hill, but Tatum? As Jenko, he soars with exuberance and effervescense! No longer the BMOC, Tatum does an emotional 360, emerging as more than a force to be reckoned with on the comedic front as he goes toe-to-toe and in some ways, surpasses the brilliance of Hill’s performance. The result is one of the most satisfying and hilarious pairings since Matthau and Lemmon, Hope and Crosby and even, Gibson and Glover.
The supporting case is equally excellent with Brie Larson and Dave Franco playing foils and adding their own comedic texture to the film while Ice Cube is delicious as Captain Dickson.
Co-directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller based on a script by Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall, the pace is non-stop, high octane energy and laughter. Rarely do you get a chance to catch your breath lest the momentum be lost, however, it is during “action” sequences when there are some momentary breathers, only to be quickly recharged with a comedic character or dialogue tweak.
The Funniest Film of the Year - 21 JUMP STREET!! Jump on over to Jump Street now.
For my complete reviews to CASA DE MI PADRE and 21 JUMP STREET, and cast interviews, go to www.moviesharkdeblore.com.