2006 - PG - 100 Mins.
|Director: Jared Hess
|Producer: Jack Black, David Klawans, Julia Pistor and Mike White
|Written By: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess and Mike White
|Starring: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, H
|Review by: Bill King
|Official Site: www.nacholibre.com/
For a perfect example of why Hollywood legend warns of pitfalls of "the sophomore jinx" look no further than director Jared Hess' 'Nacho Libre'. This movie is a long tumble down the mountain, from Hess' hilarious 'Napoleon Dynamite.' I suspect the reason for the failure is simply overconfidence. With a little bit of name recognition, Hess was able to secure the talented Jack Black and co-writer Mike White of 'School of Rock' fame (which wasn't that good anyway) in another unconventional story designed to showcase Hess's talent for mining humor from quirk. Unfortunately, the script is bereft of humor, preferring to rely on Black to carry the story.
Get this deranged Ewok off me!
Jack Black stars as Ignacio, a cook at an orphanage who moonlights as a luchadore wrestler. His love for the profession clashes with his commitment to the orphanage, the caregivers of which are dedicated monks who have taken a vow of celibacy. His situation becomes even more awkward when Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera) makes her presence felt simply by showing up. By day, Ignacio goes about his business, providing meals of questionable quality to the children. By night he becomes Nacho Libre and attempts to claw his way up the ladder to success.
Win or lose, Nacho takes home the money to help the orphanage, but he knows that bigger money is waiting for him if he can get into more prestigious matches. Risking bodily injury, he attempts to ingratiate himself with the right people in the fight game, in hopes this will lead to a larger payday. Meanwhile, back at the orphanage, Ignacio has to hide his activities from the elders and Sister Encarnación, although they will eventually discover his plans, since the script doesn't offer us any reason why they wouldn't.
The movie's attitude towards wrestling is very strange. I don't know a whole lot about Mexican wrestling, other than that it is faster and features more risk-taking than the American variety, but judging from what I've seen, it's just as staged (for lack of a nicer term) as its American counterpart. The fighters pretend to hate each other and slug it out, but it's all for show. 'Nacho Libre' treats the wrestling as if it were real (that is, real hits and real feuds). None of the matches here are predetermined, as can be seen when Nacho Libre and his tag-team partner run out of the ring to avoid being hit.
The comedy is seriously undemanding. There are few lines that induce more than a chuckle. Flatulence jokes feature prominently. For the most part, Black nails the physical aspects of the role of a wrestler, but as a monk or friar or whatever he is, he doesn't quite convince; or, more precisely, he has nothing much to work with in those scenes.
I thought we had seen the last of wrestling comedies after the failure of the abysmal 'Ready to Rumble.' 'Nacho Libre' isn't as bad, but it's stuck with weak material, so it doesn't rise above that film very much. Jack Black has done better work in the past and will certainly bounce back from this mess. As for director Jared Hess, hopefully he'll rebound from what he'll no doubt want to write off as "Sophmoritis" and regain the creative spark. I'd hate to see the promise he showed in 'Napoleon Dynamite' wasted on another project like this one.