Will Ferrell's 'Casa de Mi Padre' crosses language borders
One of the most-publicized scenes from Will Ferrell’s new film “Casa de Mi Padre” shows the comedian with a couple of ranch hands at a campfire, singing the song “Yo No Se.” Translated into English, the chorus means “I Don’t Know,” which might describe how hard it is categorize the movie itself.
Opening Friday in limited national release of about 380 theaters, “Casa de Mi Padre” is a $6-million Spanish-language parody that its makers hope will play equally well to fans of Ferrell’s comedies and Latino moviegoers. Ferrell has made a number of promotional appearances on TV prgrams such as CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NBC’s “Today,” but you’re far more likely to find “Casa de Mi Padre” commercials on variety shows like Univisión’s “Sábado Gigante” and “El Gordo y La Flaca.”
“It’s a tough film to put in a marketing box,” said Darlene Caamano Loquet, whose Nala Films financed the movie that Ferrell’s company, Gary Sanchez Productions, developed. “But it’s one of those movies that can bring those two audiences together.”
Latinos make up more than 16% of the U.S. population, but can often account for a larger proportion of ticket buyers, particularly for family and genre films. At the same time, any number of movies that have tried to target the Spanish-speaking audience — including “A Better Life,” “Selena” and “The Perez Family” — have failed to sell many tickets.
“Casa de Mi Padre” is an R-rated spoof not only of telenovelas, or Spanish-language soap operas, but also spaghetti Westerns and 1970s B movies. Ferrell plays the not-too-bright Armando Alvarez, a member of a Mexican ranch family drawn into a drug war. The cast includes Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez. Early reviews have been mixed to negative.
“It gives us a chance to laugh at ourselves, which Hispanic Americans are not given a chance to do,” Loquet said.
After Nala financed the film, it met some resistance in selling the completed movie, as some buyers couldn’t square an English-speaking movie star in a subtitled production. Pantelion Films, a joint venture launched in 2010 by Lionsgate and the Mexican media conglomerate Televisa, ultimately agreed to release the film. The upstart distributor has had limited success so far, as only 2011’s “From Prada to Nada” has grossed more than $3 million in domestic release. Its last two releases, 2011’s “Pastorela” and “Go For It!,” both grossed less than $200,000 in U.S. theaters.
The theaters booked for “Casa de Mi Padre” (which translates as "House of My Father") hint at the bifurcated distribution and marketing strategy. The film will be playing at some of the nation’s top theaters for Hispanic ticket buyers, including the Edwards South Gate Stadium 20, the AMC Burbank 16 and the AMC Orange 30. “Casa de Mi Padre” is also booked into multiplexes in Dallas, Houston and El Paso.
But to court audiences who liked Ferrell comedies such as “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” the film will be shown in Boston, Seattle, Atlanta and Boise, Idaho, among other cities with relatively small Latino populations.
“To enjoy this movie, you don’t need to speak Spanish,” said Paula Silver, whose Beyond the Box has consulted on the film’s marketing.
Some of the film’s advertisements and promotions are embracing its simultaneous pitch to the two audiences. One “Casa de Mi Padre” ad says, “From the Gringos who brought you ‘Anchorman,’” and Ferrell appeared at a recent, heavily viewed soccer match between Mexico and Colombia, answering every question in Spanish by saying the name of Mexico's top striker, Chicharito.
To ensure the comedian’s English-speaking fans know of the movie, Funny or Die, a website co-owned by Ferrell, has been running a number of clips from and ads for the film.
“It’s our belief that Hispanics are the mainstream, not some little demographic that everybody is trying to crack,” Loquet said. But she admitted that “Casa de Mi Padre’s” Spanish-language name, along with its subtitles, is an obstacle to overcome.
“We were very specific about not changing the title,” she said. “We don’t want to fool people. But it’s tough.”
Photo: Will Ferrell in "Casa de Mi Padre." Credit: Lionsgate