The idea of Will Ferrell starring in a Spanish language comedy that riffs on Mexican soap operas could be seen as an interesting attempt to try something different or an act of incredible self-indulgence, depending on your point of view. But when it comes to self-indulgent vanity projects, almost anything can be forgiven if the film is actually good.
Armando Alvarez (Ferrell) is the youngest son of a Mexican ranch owner. Armando loves the land, his cows, and his family, and is naturally concerned when it looks like evil drug baron Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) is trafficking on their property. To make matters worse, his joy at having his older brother Raul (Diego Luna) return with beautiful fiancée Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) is dashed when he realises that Raul is in fact also trafficking drugs and is in a bitter turf war with Onza. Can the dim-witted but headstrong Armando restore his family’s honour?
To paraphrase Monty Python’s Holy Grail (which is an influence): ‘tis a silly film. The deliberate continuity errors and awkward performances will tickle Garth Marenghi fans but might just as easily annoy you. The joke may not quite be one-note but it’s all variations on a theme. That said, it’s a very, very funny theme.
There’s some truly inspired dialogue, as Raul and Armando debate the morality of selling drugs to Americans, who are described as “shit-eating crazy monster babies” and the tough guy posturing when the boozy, impulsive Raul and the smooth, lecherous Onza face each other is beautifully played (anyone who smokes two cigarettes at once is clearly an evil force to be reckoned with).
Ferrell is on good form and generally leaves the mugging to the rest of the cast, while Rodriguez more than holds her own. The probable highlight, however, is seeing Luna and Bernal having such a terrific time hamming it up. They both manage to somehow give it a stamp of credibility while at the same time being completely on the same deeply ridiculous wavelength as everyone else.
A couple of the sight gags are repeated one too many times and it’s an acquired taste for sure, but, to us, this is a gloriously silly comedy that had us in stiches.