Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Casa de mi Padre vs. The Dictator, two movies starring chameleon-like funny men taking on new ethnicities and probably insulting some people along the way.
Premise Both movies this week are steeped in parody. Casa de mi Padre is based on a Mexican farm run by Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell), and considering the dramatic two minutes of the trailer, we are effectively entering the world of the Will Ferrell Spanish soap opera. That fun formula includes Mexican garb, buxom women, cowboy hats, lots of red, tinted glasses and machine guns, all done in Spanish and with subtitles. The Dictator reaches similar heights of ridiculousness. In it, Sacha Baron Cohen plays a North African dictator named General Aladeen who treats himself to the stereotypical dictator fare: Lambos; sex with famous women for ritzy gifts; huge, Eurotrashy glasses; and rigged races of all kinds. We honestly couldn’t stop laughing during either movie trailer, at both Will Ferrell’s deadly serious and hilarious faces and Baron Cohen’s running skills and equally hilarious faces. Well-done, men. Advantage: Tie
Lead Actors Everyone knows that movies headlined by Will Ferrell, rolled R’s or not, and Sacha Baron Cohen are sure to promise a good amount of costumes, rowdiness and laughs. Even Ferrell’s turn in a drama, Stranger than Fiction, was funny in its own little way. In both films, it seems we’re getting both Ferrell and Baron Cohen at their best, Anchorman and Borat-style, with both men wearing their new character hats with comedic grace. However, Baron Cohen edges out Ferrell for coming back strong from the harshly-criticized Brüno, even if it’s in much the same offensive, over-the-top, insensitive way that got him in trouble in the first place. Points, too, for the unexpected and always welcome Kardashian joke. Advantage: The Dictator
Cultural Believability No doubt, both Ferrell and Baron Cohen are chameleons and masters of their craft, and both Casa de mi Padre and The Dictator are steeped in culture: for Ferrell that culture is Mexican, and for Baron Cohen, it’s a fictional Wadiyan. Both offer gaudy outfits, hot dates, nice rides, vast and rich landscapes. And yet, though we appreciate the one-part-Hussein-two-parts-Qaddafi parody cocktail of Baron Cohen’s dictator, camel and Lamborghini cavalcade and all, we’re really, really impressed by Ferrell’s grasp of the Spanish language and especially its native songs (1:06). Is there anything Will Ferrell can’t do? Advantage: Casa de mi Padre
Supporting Cast Now, both movies are pretty even in terms of supporting cast skills. Casa de mi Padre boasts Y Tu Mamá También‘s Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, Effren Ramirez (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite) and Nick Offerman, better known as Ron Swanson of TV’s Parks and Recreation—one of the funniest men on television today. Meanwhile, The Dictator‘s casting credits include a funny Megan Fox, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, The Office‘s B.J. Novak and The Daily Show‘s Aasif Mandvi. Okay, so The Dictator has a tad more acting talent—we’re still going to have to give it to Casa de mi Padre here, for allowing Offerman some time to shine in the big-time comedy film he so richly deserves. Advantage: Casa de mi Padre Directors Both films’ directors are also super-talented funnymen in their own right. Casa de mi Padre‘s director Matt Piedmont was an Emmy-winning writer on Saturday Night Live from 1996 to 2002, coincidentally the same years Will Ferrell was on the show. Directing-wise, Piedmont has worked on “Funny or Die Presents,” the “Carpet Bros” web series and Brick Novax’s Diary, a short that garnered him the Grand Jury Prize Short Filmmaking at 2011’s Sundance Film Festival. The Dictator‘s Larry Charles has a few winners under his belt, as well, including five years as a staff writer on Seinfeld. Aside from directing all of Baron Cohen’s movies, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Brüno, and Bill Maher’s Religulous, he has also, for the past decade, been directing a little show called Curb Your Enthusiasm. That’s three more feature film credits than Piedmont, and enough to for Charles to cinch the win here. Advantage: The Dictator
Verdict So we can’t choose between the two. Surprise, surprise. This would have been a much easier decision if one movie was a like lackluster predecessor of either Ferrell’s or Baron Cohen’s past. Alas, they are not. Both promise fun times with fun people, accents galore, off-kilter jokes, and funnier costumes (epaulets and neckerchiefs are always funny). And since Casa de mi Padre comes out in March and The Dictator in May, that means there’s more than enough time to save up for tickets to both.Winner: Tie
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