Sometimes a movie is such a
train wreck that you can't help but wonder what the hell they were thinking.
Which is a bit of a surprise in this case, because Nacho Libre does
have a lot of talented people behind it.
It was co-written and
directed by Jared Hess, the mastermind behind the polarizing
Napoleon Dynamite. I have never seen it -- in
honesty I've kind of actively avoided it because the little clips I did see
looked beyond stupid -- but I know that many people have assured me that it
is one of the funniest movies ever. I think I can pretty safely say no
one will ever make that assessment of Nacho Libre, though.
One of his co-writers was
Mike White, the respected scribe behind Chuck and Buck, The Good Girl
and School of Rock. White's friend (and star of the last film)
Jack Black plays the main character.
Black, who is always an
unbridled force of nature as an actor, is oddly muzzled here. His
character of Ignacio is a friar who cooks for orphan children in a tiny
monastery in Mexico. However, he has a deep secret, he is a huge fan
of Lucha Libre, Mexico's flamboyant equivalent of professional
wrestling. In fact he dreams of becoming a Luchador, one of the masked
wrestlers, despite the fact that it is considered ungodly in the school.
Ignacio finally takes a
chance as a luchador using the nickname Nacho Libre, teaming up with an
incredibly thin and odd looking petty thief (Hector Jiminez) to become a tag
team. Their training has nothing to do with... you know... wrestling,
instead they throw feces, get attacked by bees, climb cliffs to drink from
eagle eggs. No wonder they always lose. During the scenes -- and there are tons of them -- when
Nacho and his little friend contemplate giving up on wrestling, the audience
can't help but agree with this idea, because they obviously have no talent
at the sport.
The running gags are weak.
The food is so bad that no one can stand to eat it. Ooh, that's
original... Jack Black is fat. Yeah, so what of it?
Ignacio and his partner have periodic debates of faith vs. science.
However, they never go deeper with it, they just play lip service to the
ideas without exploring them. The other characters will say things
just to set off plot devices and then change their minds completely with no
particular rhyme or reason.
There is an odd love
interest here, Ignacio is quietly in courtly love with Encarnacion (Ana de
la Reguera), undoubtedly the most attractive nun in the world. Yes,
that's right, a romantic tango between a friar and a
nun! Heightening the icky
factor, the head friar of the monastery also seems to be fantasizing about her and
chastely making his own advances. Of course, recognizing they are far
out on a limb here, the movie just allows this thread to sort of simmer
without ever coming to a real resolution. Ignacio makes it clear that
he would be interested in giving up his vow of celebacy for her, but other
than a brief, somewhat inscrutable scene where she reads his love note in
her bed clothes, we never totally know what she feels about him. Yes,
she respects his devotion to the orphans -- but is that love? We never
really know, not that we necessarily want to.
Ignacio is mostly a quiet,
shy and courtly man, which is going against type for Jack Black. It's
certainly fine for Black to play someone more subtly (in fact, I'd like to
see him try it in a better film), however this movie is not subtle, nor is
the subject matter. Therefore, Ignacio's hushed, intense drama borders
For a PG-rated film,
Nacho Libre has a strange, harsh mean streak, laughing at people in pain.
At different points, characters in the movie get cold-cocked by car doors,
attacked by a hive of bees, hit with an arrow, impaled by corn-on-a-cob, hit
on by a fat woman, gored by a stomping bull and generally have the crap
beaten out of them. How funny a viewer finds all of this mayhem and
torture would probably tell you an awful lot more about that person's mental
stability than it does about the movie. (10/06)