Nacho Libre (2006) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG for crude humor
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: Jack Black, Hector Jimenez, Ana de la Reguera, Darius Rose, Moises Arias, Eduardo Gomez, Carlos Maycotte, Richard Montoya, Cesar Gonzalez
Director: Jared Hess
Screenplay: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, Mike White
Review published June 20, 2006

Nacho Libre strikes me as one of those movies that will run the gamut in terms of where people will individually assess it, as some viewers will find it inspired and hilarious, while others will find it stupid and without much humor value.  As I've often said, comedy is in the funny bone of the beholder, and with that in mind, I'm really at a loss as to whether or not to recommend Nacho Libre to anyone not a major Jack Black (King Kong, The School of Rock) fan, wrestling aficionado, or lover of the droll visual comedy as exemplified in director Jared Hess's cult hit comedy, Napoleon Dynamite. If you aren't any one of those three, tread at your own risk.

Jack Black stars as Ignacio (nicknamed Nacho), an orphan that, from an early age, has had a passion for the Mexican wrestling world.  Wrestling is looked down upon at the monastery he currently works at as a cook, so he never realized his dream of becoming a luchador, the term for a wrestler in Lucha Libre, as professional wrestling is called in Mexico.  When the other monks complain about the substandard quality of Nacho's food, he concocts a plan to make more money so that he can afford better stuff for the orphans, as well as to get in the good graces of the lovely Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera, Por la Libre).  Along with his scrawny partner, Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez), Nacho tries his hand at wrestling, where he does make the money he seeks, although always in a losing effort.  However, as much as Nacho is happy to provide better food for the children, he also wants to know what it's like to win.

Even if you don't fit into the right demographic for this kind of movie, there are definitely some things about the film that might make it worthwhile.  Jack Black gives a funny, dynamic performance, even if it isn't his best, with his energy contrasting with the deadpan approach given to most of the rest of the performers. The characterizations are vivid and colorful, with a likeable supporting cast and a funny ensemble of luchadores that make the wrestling scenes a particular highlight.  It's just so absurd at times, such as when Jack Black climbs up a cliff face to eat the yolk of an eagle's egg for wrestling prowess, that it makes you laugh just as much at how inspired the comedic premise is as it does the silly way that it plays out.  It is also lovely to just look at, with cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobet (Chasing Papi, The Woodsman) effectively capturing the color and richness of Mexico beautifully,  Last but not least, Danny Elfman (Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) contributes another winning score. 

Unfortunately, it is also a movie filled with many lulls, and sometimes the humor is at a level that will have you scratching your head and wondering just what is supposed to be funny about it.  This might be expected, given that Jack Black's brand of humor isn't going to mesh entirely with Hess's, as they are nearly polar opposites in their style (and speed) of delivery. 

My personal take on Nacho Libre is that it seems like a funny skit comedy that somehow managed to get a full-length feature release.  It is funny and inventive enough to merit a viewing for those interested in the material, but outside of a few humorous scenes, there just isn't enough presented to make an entire movie out of.  While clever enough at times to moderately entertain adults, it's quite silly and sophomoric, with fart gags and gross-out jokes a-plenty, so I suspect that younger viewers will probably enjoy this more than their parents will.  Even with its considerable flaws, like Napoleon Dynamite, it has the chance to gain cult movie status over time.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo