Starring: Jack Black, Hector Jimenez, Ana de la Reguera, Richard Montoya
Running time: 92 min.
** (out of ****)
It's a terrible feeling when an actor you're a big fan of makes a bad movie. Jack Black is funny. Hilarious even. He was terrific in High Fidelity, Shallow Hal and Orange County. Was was also the best thing in King Kong. However, he's one of those actors who needs to be given direction and focus to be effective. If the story isn't strong or tight enough, he can fly off the rails and the consequences can be unpleasant and annoying. I thought that happened with School of Rock. Such is the case with Nacho Libre, a movie that tries desperately to be subversive and cool but in the end is just empty. Jack Black is fat. He's wearing a ridiculous wrestling costume. He's winking at you, letting you know he's in on the joke and it's funny. That's the movie.
Black plays Brother Ignasio, a monastary cook who dreams of becoming a Luchador (a Mexican professional wrestler) so he can improve food service for the kids and hopefully impress the beautiful new teacher, Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera). He finds a tag team partner in frighteningly skinny street peasant, Esquelto a.k.a "The Skeleton" (Hector Jiminez) and they soon realize they can get paid pretty well to be beat up every night. That's not enough for Ignasio though. He wants to win. With a tablecloth and a sewing machine Nacho Libre is born.
I really wanted to like this movie. I tried really hard, but it just goes nowhere. Some of the wrestling scenes are actually pretty funny (especially a tag team match against scary midgets), but once you get past that the movie just limps along aimlessly. I actually found myself looking at my watch at times, which is pretty pathetic when you remember this thing is only 92 minutes long. The movie doesn't make fun of wrestling and actually has alot of respect for it, which I liked. Unfortunately though, it's not funny and downright annoying at times. I giggled a few times but most of the movie just consists of Black in ludicrous regalia mocking his lines as he delivers them in an intentionally bad accent. That's actually hilarious for the first fifteen miutes, but a movie needs more. If you hope to gain any insight on Lucha Libre wrestling or even how they made the movie with the special features on the disc, don't hold your breath. It's just Jack Black rehearsing wrestling scenes.
What's mind blowing about the movie is that it was made by incredibly talented people. It was directed by Jared Hess, who made Napoleon Dynamite and was co-written by Mike White, who wrote Orange County. Napoleon Dynamite told a story with memorable characters that went somewhere. It was campy and intentionally ridiculous like this film but it was about something. The characters may be more likable in this film but they sure aren't as entertaining. One of the big flaws with this movie is they seemed determined to recreate the Napoleon-Pedro friendship with Nacho and Esquelto. You can strangely see the movie trying to be another Napoleon Dynamite as both are about outcasts who struggle to gain acceptance. Except one film is actually about it, while the other is just going through the motions. Given the way it was made, Nacho Libre is probably destined to become a cult classic if it isn't one already. But that still won't make it any funnier.