That conceit is certainly the starting point for the humor. Indeed, the first time Ferrell appears onscreen and begins speaking, the audience laughs, even when he's not saying anything particularly funny. Ferrell's greatest comic strength is the appearance of serious determination in contrast to the ridiculousness of whatever else he happens to be doing. Here, the faux-gravitas of the performance dovetails nicely with the filmmakers' intent to spoof the melodramatic, self-serious world of Mexican telenovelas. Ferrell's seriousness and the source material's silliness feed into one another, creating a kind of self-sustaining comedy loop that makes this film work.
Ferrell plays Armando, the simpleton son of a Mexican rancher, the titular Padre. He spends his days riding the range with an even simpler ranch hand sidekick, Esteban (Efren Ramirez). Early on, Armando's brother Raul (Diego Luna), a successful city slicker, returns to the ranch to introduce his new fiancé, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) to the family. A smitten Armando quickly falls for her, even as he questions her motivations as well as his brother's love for her. He also soon discovers that his brother is trafficking drugs, and that Sonia is the niece of the local drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). Onza doesn't take kindly to the double threat of Raul marrying into his family and potentially stepping on his drug turf, and that puts the whole family in danger.
These all feel like the convolutions of a fairly standard western B-movie. But like jazz musicians, the filmmakers and performers use that familiar framework to riff endlessly around the margins. The main subject for ridicule tends to be low-budget Mexican cinema and soaps' poor production value, which Casa parodies to ridiculous lengths.
In one scene, Armando and Esteban watch from a hillside as Onza and his men kill a man. The shots of Onza are outdoors, shot on location, but when the angle reverses, Ferrell and Ramirez are obviously hiding out among fake rocks, with a badly painted studio background behind them. In another, Armando and Sonia go for a horseback ride, on what are clearly fake horses on wheels. An establishing shot of a town is done using poorly disguised models. Hilariously clumsy fake product placements come out of nowhere. Ferrell is sometimes replaced (once in a sex scene) by a mannequin. An animatronic cougar aids a comically trippy vision quest.
The list goes on and on, as Piedmont takes glee in proving that he's actually a talented filmmaker by showing just how effectively he can recreate and tweak poor filmmaking practices. One could teach a class on continuity errors in film based around the running visual jokes the director creates around the rolling and smoking of cigarettes.
Piedmont isn't the only one obviously having great fun. Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, normally serious actors who are best known together as the young friends in the acclaimed 2001 film Y Tu Mamá También, obviously must have grown up watching the kinds of movies and television being sent up here. They dive into the absurdity of their roles with relish, and Bernal is particularly memorable as a cartoonishly diabolical Scarface-like narco.