Director: Jared Hess
Cast: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Peter Stormare, Hector Jimenez
Plot: A monastery cook in Mexico has a secret passion for wrestling and the world of Luchadores that conflicts with his faith.
Nacho Libre should not be funny. On paper, it is the kind of film I should hate with a passion. The comedy has little thought put into it, easy jokes and a bizarre nature standing in for actual comedic talent. However, I cannot deny that I was laughing throughout pretty much all of this movie.
Nacho Libre puts us in the shoes of monastery cook, Ignacio, one of the more odd Jack Black characters we have been blessed with. He cooks for an orphanage and has pledged his life to his faith, despite taking an oath not to give into his temptations with the beautiful Sister Encarnacion. Before long, his lifelong passion of becoming one of Mexico’s finest Luchadores kicks in, conflicting with his promises to uphold religion and care for the orphaned kids. He has to choose between following his dreams or doing the right thing, unaware that there is maybe a middle ground where he can use his wrestling desires to bring better times to the orphanage he is trying to protect.
It is such a weird film. There are no cleverly written jokes, but it is so bizarre that you end up being broken down by the childish sense of humour and giving in to Jack Black’s irresistible charm. Sometimes it is the way his Mexican accent tackles a certain syllable. Sometimes it is just the way he smiles goofily at the girl of his dreams. Then of course there are the bigger moments, like how he milks the audience’s attention in the ring or where he bursts into a song, channelling the Mariachi theme of the band and throwing in some of that amazing vocal work he picked up in Tenacious D. There are a lot of themes that fall flat in this movie, far more than there should be. The film wants to make a joke out of the Luchadore world, so it staples on some morals and clichés to get away with the bare minimum of narrative. However, when the film needs to handle story elements, they never work. However, there is always a terrible joke just around the corner to lift that moment. You end up hating and loving this film at the same time. Guilty laughs, if you will.
Still, it is hard to applaud the racism in this film. It is under the table racism, so indirect it is hard to call it out. Technically this is a celebration of Mexican culture with a Jack Black twist, making them the heroes and therefore not being racist. However, at the same time, the main joke here is how unfilmable Mexicans are, turning everyone into unlikely heroes in a movie. The sidekick Hector Jimenez deliberately looks half-donkey with a hideous woman pining for him, mocking the love interest side of things. Jack Black goes for heroic at the end of the film, but the film jokingly makes him come across as just odd. The only girl who looks like she could stand up in a mainstream film is Ana de la Reguera and she even looks as if they couldn’t persuade Salma Hayek to do this film. I don’t overly mind it in certain beats, but when the whole movie revolves around this idea, it becomes a little harder to swallow.
But it is a Jack Black comedy, so you expected all this, didn’t you? I have never really liked the bloke’s style of cinema. Sure, he always hits the mark with what he is trying to do, but he is so out there that the premise is just outside of my comfort zone. It doesn’t help that he is one of the only people to truly be able to work with the tone of his style of comedy, making the co-stars seem as if they are not actually in on the joke. Nacho Libre tries to keep the focus on Jack Black, tuning everyone else out, unless the director can bring a little charm to a few character traits. It works in places, doesn’t work in a lot more, but overall, it is worthwhile enough to add to your DVD collection.
Final Verdict: On paper, Nacho Libre is a terrible comedy, but it is hard not to have a soft spot for Jack Black’s energy. Surprisingly funny.