|Nacho Libre (2006)
Starring: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Hector Jimenez, Peter Stormare
Director: Jared Hess
ALSO! Check out our interview with director Jared Hess.
“Jack Black as a Mexican wrestler? Are you kidding me, this is comedy gold!”
What a staggering miscalculation on our part. Far and wide the biggest disappointment of the summer (and it’s only June!), writer/director Jared Hess’ wrestling comedy, “Nacho Libre,” isn’t necessarily a horrible film, but it in no way reflects his talent as a filmmaker. Only two years prior, Hess became a cinematic phenom when his debut feature, “Napoleon Dynamite,” wowed audiences at Sundance and went on to become a commercial success. For his sophomore effort, Hess teamed up with comic duo Jack Black and Mike White (“School of Rock”) for a new project that looked to be a surefire hit. Instead, “Nacho Libre” is nothing more than a silly gimmick in serious need of a rewrite.
Black stars as Ignacio (but his friends call him Nacho), a humble friar at a Mexican monastery where he’s worked as a cook since being sent to live there as a child. Given very little money to spend on ingredients for the orphans’ meals, Nacho devises a plan to make some quick cash, while at the same time winning over the affection of Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera): moonlight as a Luche Libre wrestler, despite the church’s disapproval of the vanity sport. Nacho finds a capable tag-team partner in Steven (Hector Jimenez), a skin-and-bones drifter who goes by the wrestling name Esqueleto and has a soft spot for corn-on-the-cob, and though untrained and out-of-shape, the ragtag duo actually display a natural talent for the sport in the ring.
The chemistry between the two stars is arguably the best thing about the film, and while Black’s performance isn’t exactly the comic brilliance that we were promised in the trailer, Jimenez absolutely shines as his unlikely partner. This guy is funny (even when he probably shouldn’t be) and much like Efren Ramirez (who played the expressionless Pedro in “Napoleon Dynamite”), expect Jimenez to get plenty of offers in the coming months. Black, on the other hand, seems well aware that his character doesn’t exhibit the same depth as in past roles (like, say, Carl Denham in “King Kong”), and so he just resorts to being himself when the opportunity is presented, including an overabundance of eyebrow trickery and cute, little songs packed with deedle-diddle-dos.
The wrestling scenes are well done, and really help to promote the sport, but one can’t help wondering how Nacho and Esqueleto continue to lose, even though they always appear to be winning. Perhaps the joke was lost in translation, but it would have made much more sense to have the duo terrible from the get-go. The rest of the film is plagued with problems, from slow pacing to inconsistencies in the script, and though Hess’ trademark style is certainly there (the Wes Anderson-esque “uncomfortable comedy”), the humor is few and far between the sophomoric toilet jokes that dominate the story. This doesn’t prevent “Nacho Libre” from being a great family film, though. It’s just not the “Dynamite” comedy that everyone was hoping for.
Desperately trying to sell DVDs of a movie that most people just didn’t like quite enough to buy, Paramount has “loaded” this single-disc release with tons of bonus material; or so it seems, upon looking at the listed extras on the back of the “special edition” DVD. What it fails to disclose is just how un-special this release really is. An audio commentary featuring Jack Black, director Jared Hess and writer Mike White highlights the disc, but the fact that they’re eating throughout the entire movie (mostly crunchy tortilla chips) makes it incredibly annoying to listen to. Also included are three deleted scenes, two behind-the-scene mini-docs on song preparation, four featurettes ranging from production to the history of luche libre, and a “Moviefone: Unscripted” interview session between stars Black and Hector Jimenez.