CASA DE MI PADRE – Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Casa de Mi Padre is an intentionally silly spoof of those wonderfully cheesy but enormously popular Spanish-language telenovelas, especially ones from the 1970s which have a Grindhouse-esque quality. English-speaking audiences are generally unaware of their success and popularity, but they form a cornerstone of Latin popular entertainment, especially in countries like Mexico, Spain, Portugal, and most of South and Central America. The brainchild of actor/producer Will Ferrell, screenwriter Andrew Steele and director Matt Piedmont, the film stars Ferrell as Armando Alvarez, the good-natured but dim-witted son of a wealthy Mexican landowner (the late Pedro Armendáriz, Jr.), whose life is thrown into turmoil when his younger brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns to the family home with a beautiful new fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) to take over the business. However, Raul has fallen in with the wrong company, and soon Armando finds himself caught up in the middle of a bitter feud between Raul and the evil drug kingpin Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). Yes, despite the rather serious plot, it is a comedy, and yes, it’s entirely in Spanish, and the jokes come thick and fast, with intentionally bad continuity, poor special effects, and hilarious psychedelic inserts competing with the broad slapstick and clever wordplay Ferrell brings to the table.
The music for Casa de Mi Padre is by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, newcomers to the film music scene, but who clearly have a big future ahead of them if their work here is anything to go by. Feltenstein and Nau have a long history scoring TV commercial spots through their music production company, Beacon Street Studios in Venice California, but other than a straight-to-video sequel to the movie Wild Things and a few shorts and other small projects, this is their first major film. In many ways, the soundtrack to Casa de Mi Padre inhabits the same world as the film, in that it is almost a meta-spoof of itself and the films it parodies. Through both the score and the album’s numerous original songs, there is a definite low-budget 70s vibe, both in the recording quality and the musical style, which takes musical influences from everywhere – Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, traditional Mexican mariachi music, James Bond songs, and much more besides. In many ways, you have to get the original joke to get what the soundtrack is trying to achieve: it’s both an homage to the style, and a satire of the style’s conventions, and if you approach it as such, there’s a great deal to enjoy.
The original songs are all of very high quality, a rarity in a time when songwriting for the cinema seems to be at an all-time low ebb. The opening title, “Casa de Mi Padre”, is belted out forcefully in Spanish by Christina Aguilera, in a manner that Shirley Bassey would approve of; in fact, the entire main title sequence owes a lot to the James Bond series and its designer Maurice Binder, with the camera fetishistically close-focused on Aguilera’s luscious lips throughout its duration. “Fight For Love”, again sung in Spanish by lead actors Ferrell and Rodriguez, is a wonderfully old-fashioned pop ballad that sounds so authentic it could have represented Spain at the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest, while “Yo No Se”, sung by Ferrell with his supporting actors Efren Ramirez and Adrian Martinez, is a campfire Mariachi epic extolling the simple life led by rancheros which is utterly fabulous (and shows that Ferrell can really sing!) – if one or more of these songs doesn’t pick up an Oscar nomination next year, there truly is no justice in the world.
The score is eclectic and varied, but emphasizes the composers’ versatility, and captures the mood and tone of the film very well. There’s not much there in terms of a recurring thematic identity, so instead the score plays as a series of semi-serious semi-comedic musical vignettes, each with its own feel, but all with an overarching sense of it all being nostalgic throwback to the 70s. “Raul Drugs” is a grungy rock instrumental; “Fuzzorama” is an odd combination of surf music and psychedelic rock that sounds like one of Quentin Tarantino’s rejected tracks from his soundtrack to Pulp Fiction; “Ask for Marry Permission” goes even further back in time to the 1950s, sounding for all the world like a soft instrumental version of the song “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease, while the hallucinatory “Trip Out” is an ear-splitting cacophony of music, sound effects and sampled audio which makes sense in the context of the film, but is annoying out of it. Only “Hermano” restates the main melody from the opening title song, while also featuring a lonely-sounding solo trumpet performance by Tom Ferrell.
The best cues see Feltenstein and Nau adopting a more traditional sound. The unusually lush pianos and ghostly choral effects in the “Wedding Massacre” juxtapose perfectly the scenes of comedic ultra-violence and blood and guts on screen; later, “Sonia Pool” introduces a beautiful love theme on a lush classical guitar accompanied by a sweeping string section, while “Luv Butts” has a little flirtation with all that wonderful soft core Europorn music written by composers like Pierre Bachelet and Francis Lai. “Dad Dies” starts as a somber piano solo, but unexpectedly lurches into Wojciech Kilar-style cello-driven melodrama by the end, and two cues feature vocal performances by the ethereal-sounding Mayan Ghost Choir – the spooky and slightly unsettling “Car Burn”, and the surprisingly beautiful and moving “Raul Dies”, which is essentially an unaccompanied choral lament with tragic liturgical overtones, and ends the CD on a strange, reflective note of heavy pathos… until our old friend La Onza comes in with his hearty feline chuckle (and anyone who has seen the film will understand why!)
Several cues also feature dialogue clips from the film, but in this instance it adds to the charm of the CD, which is a rarity coming from someone like me who usually hates dialogue clips on soundtracks. It’s possible that my affinity for and enjoyment of the film has swayed my judgment in a positive direction when it comes to its music, but I really feel that this is one of the best marriages of film and music in a comedy for quite some time, both conceptually in terms of the mood the entire project is trying to convey, and in purely creative musical terms. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, certainly, especially those who don’t understand the context of the music as it relates to the film, but I personally found both the original score and the original songs to be uniformly excellent; Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau have introduced themselves to the film music world with a hit, and I look forward to hearing what they do next.
Buy the Casa de Mi Padre soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Casa de Mi Padre (written by Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau, Andrew Steele and Patrick C. Pérez, performed by Christina Aguilera) (2:52)
- Raul Drugs (1:10)
- Whiter Shade (written by Gary Brooker, Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher, performed by El Puma) (3:28)
- Fuzzorama (2:07)
- Wedding Massacre (2:23)
- Ask For Marry Permission (1:54)
- Hermano (written by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by Tom Farrell) (1:46)
- Lala (written by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by Kara Nau and John Nau) (0:40)
- Fight for Love (written by Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau and Andrew Steele, performed by Will Ferrell & Genesis Rodriguez) (2:57)
- Yo No Se (written by Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau and Andrew Steele performed by Will Ferrell, Efren Ramirez and Adrian Martinez feat. Mitch Manker) (2:54)
- Car Burn (written by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by Mayan Ghost Choir) (2:27)
- Trip Out (written by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by The Hebrochachos!) (1:47)
- Sonia Pool (2:23)
- Luv Butts (1:13)
- Staredown (0:18)
- Dad Dies (3:23)
- Shellshock (written by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by The Bromigos) (0:33)
- Chubby Duckling (0:48)
- Del Cielo (written by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by Cecilia Noel) (2:59)
- Raul Dies (written by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by Mayan Ghost Choir) (2:38)
Running Time: 41 minutes 06 seconds
Lakeshore Records LKS-342592 (2012)
Music composed by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau. Edited by Derek Somaru. Album produced by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau.