Dave's Rating:

2.5

Casa de Grind.

"MCMLXX" reads the Roman date at the bottom of the opening credit title card, right next to "In Color!" Then this film set in 1970 proceeds to trot out large 1980s cell phones and late-model cars. They meant to do that.

They also meant to make the cheap sets look exactly like cheap sets with painted backdrops and man-made ponds. And you're obligated to notice Will Ferrell having sex with a mannequin as the body double for Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge), characters being pulled along on wheel-equipped fake horses, jerky-motion animatronic wildcats and exploding red-dye squibs that erupt from large-breasted women when the bad guys come in and shoot up a wedding party.

This all-Spanish parody of both telenovelas and grindhouse filmmaking tells the nonsense story of Armando Alvarez (Ferrell, whose accent is repeatedly questioned by the actual Spanish speakers on screen) and his attachment to his father's (the late Pedro Armendariz Jr.) ranch in Mexico. Brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with Rodriguez to marry her and save the ranch from financial problems. But Raul's already in too deep with drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) and that means war. With fake guns.

But plot isn't why you're here. You're here to watch Ferrell do whatever he wants with the freedom that comes with a low budget. Those uncomfortable silences after a minor joke's power has been intentionally wrung out of it, daring the audience to find dead space funny, the aggressive lack of continuity from shot to shot, the visual and narrative non-sequiturs, filmmaking "mistakes" in which crew members are visible in reflective surfaces, all of it is there for you to notice and laugh at. There's a reason Ferrell recently took a small role in Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie. Their deadpan, confusion-based comedy is a close cousin to this kind of thing.

And you will laugh. And it'll be consistent. But it'll also mostly be medium-sized chuckles versus the kind of gut-grabbing haw-haw-haw you always hope to get from a comedy. And that's because you can see real telenovela "clipos magnificos" just about every week on The Soup, providing laughs straight from the source, and the grindhouse-as-comedy aesthetic as a winking trend is already past its sell-by date. That doesn't mean nobody should attempt it anymore, obviously. And if anyone is going to go for it then let it be Ferrell, but the half-measures here will, in the end, make you wish you'd just seen something with a little mas fuerte. I meant to do that.

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