Just because you’re trying to be ironic doesn’t mean you are. Just because you’re constantly mugging doesn’t mean you’re always funny. Just because you can speak Spanish doesn’t necessarily give you the right to make fun of every Tex-Mex Western ever made. But that doesn’t stop Will Farrell from trying. Maybe too hard.
Of course, humor is highly individual, especially the satirical type, and what’s funny to some isn’t to others. But in the crowded pre-screening this reviewer attended, there weren’t any LOL guffaws. The whole sloppy mess was greeted with the kind of stony silence that only comes from jokes that have fallen flat.
It’s kind of a shame, too, because there was almost enough dramatic quality to consider making this a “real” Western soap opera. Imagine the Prodigal Son parable on a ranch in Mexico. Except that the father, not just clearly favoring the absent older son, Raul (Diego Luna), actually actively calls the younger son who remains “stupid,” which Armando (Ferrell) isn’t. He’s just as tied to the land as his harsh father, and he’s slow to make a marriage commitment because he’s romantic about being with someone as enamored with the ranch as he is. When Raul returns home, his father Miguel (Pedro Armendariz Jr., who died shortly after the film was produced) throws a great feast and actually throws Armando out of the party for being surly. It seems Armando doesn’t want to bless his wayward brother because Raul’s brought home a pretty tart, Sonia (the stunning beauty Genesis Rodriguez), who Armando thinks is putting on a sweetness/innocence act that Armando sees right through.
Well, it’s not really worth going over the plot that much: It’s just a convenient vehicle for strange, silly antics like chuckling too long at tepid jokes, or playing with a love scene by grabbing bare behinds, or doing slow-mo blood-spattering violence and then the shooting victim has to have one last cigarette before expiring, or a gringo speaking Spanish with a really bad accent.
Right in the middle, they stop the movie to apologize for the poor quality of the screenplay, for fake-looking props and abrupt transitions. Maybe they should have just stopped there.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.