I t may play like a Funny Or Die sketch that's got way, way out of hand, but you have to admire the cajones on Will Ferrell for delivering a feature film almost entirely in Spanish. Inspired by the Mexican telenovela (which is basically just like an American daytime soap, only with everyone involved possibly hammered on tequila), Casa de mi Padre sees Ferrell's idiot son fighting to save not only the family ranch but also his brother (played by Diego Luna) as he goes head-to-head with a local drug lord (played by Gael Garcia Bernal).
Before breaking through internationally with 2001's Y Tu Mama Tambien, native sons Luna and Bernal started out in Mexican telenovelas -- and so are well-equipped to handle the wobbly sets, the even wobblier plot, and the constant stream of melodramatic showdowns. For Ferrell (who also produces here), the deliberately shambolic shoot felt just like home.
"It's pretty much the way I shoot all of my movies," nods the 44-year-old. "Don't fret too much about the quality of the production, just let the cameras roll and see what stupidity we can come up with to make each other laugh. And then try very, very hard not to laugh, so you don't ruin the take."
The only problem with faking it when it comes to bad filmmaking is that the audience is in on the joke. And, therefore, it's never quite as funny as those productions that are trying to be taken seriously.
"There is that tiny obstacle, absolutely," says Ferrell, "but, you know, you just have to find the funny in what you're doing, and figure out your own set of rules as you go along. We could have had the set falling over all the time, we could have had shoot-outs every five minutes where the hero doesn't even get a splash of blood on his perfect white suit, but there's a certain amount of logic here. Not much, but there is a little, enough to drive the plot forward with some sense of purpose and reality.
"So, you have to find that balance where there's some kind of method to all the mayhem. Bottom line though, as always, is, if it makes us laugh, it's probably working."
As with Jack Black's 2006 Mexican adventure Nacho Libre, Ferrell's sojourn south of the border isn't entirely successful, but at the right time of night with the right Mexican liquor and a pit of nachos it might just hit the spot.
"There's a whole world of possibilities that comes with heading down Mexico way," says Ferrell. "We all have our preconceptions about the place, just as we do with Ireland, Australia, Japan, wherever. It's fun to play with those preconceptions."
Will Ferrell's instinctive wit and his willingness to commit even when he looks distinctly unsexy has proven a lethal combination, too, first as a cast member on America's long-running variety sketch show Saturday Night Live (where Adam McKay was a chief writer) and later in such movies as Elf, Old School, Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers and The Other Guys.
Through it all, Ferrell has perfected, as best friend, Funny Or Die co-founder and regular director McKay puts it: "Playing mediocre American men, guys who aren't as great as they think they are. Like George W Bush."
"I'm definitely drawn to incredibly confident idiots, yeah," chuckles Ferrell. "There's just so much comedy in delusion."
It may explain why Ferrell has finally gotten around to Anchorman 2, the long-gestating sequel to the 2004 hit that introduced the world to the stingingly arrogant and stunningly ignorant small town newscaster Ron Burgundy.
"We've always said that we don't do sequels, but Ron just kept coming up again and again with fans. And we started to realise that there was an interesting challenge there, and even a sense of unfinished business."
Casa de mi Padre hits Irish screens on June 8