by Scott Weinberg
It sounded like a brilliant combination at the outset: Maniacal funnyman Jack Black, coming off his smash hit School of Rock, in collaboration with The Good Girl screenwriter Mike White and second-time director Jared (Napoleon Dynamite) Hess. Surely this trio of inspired comedy experts would yield something truly unique and outrageously amusing. Well, I guess that's why we watch the movies before making any judgments, because, despite a few isolated moments of truly inspired comedy, Nacho Libre is a pretty stale, silly, and annoyingly self-satisfied little farce.Let's just make this clear from the outset: I like Jack Black a whole lot. I love that he'll do just about anything for a laugh, and he really knows how to contort his face and make wacky noises like nobody's business.
"A one-joke flick in which the one joke ... ain't all that funny."
Having said that, his latest exploit, Nacho Libre, feels like something that Jack Black finds absolutely hilarious, even if he doesn't seem to care if nobody else will.
Here the rotund rascal plays a Mexican monk-in-training who moonlights as a harrowingly inept wrestler. Nacho also has a dirt-covered and wirey sidekick, a starry-eyed little fat kid who adores him, a doe-eyed young nun to crush on, and a really goofy little motor scooter. Nacho sucks at wrestling a whole lot, which becomes clear by the time the 6th wresting match is paraded across the screen, but when he gets his one last shot at redemption ... well, let's just say Nacho Libre doesn't exactly work as a sports movie.
And as a comedy, it barely fares much better.
Lensed in an aggressively bland series of straight-ahead one-shots (in which all the characters speak directly into the camera before making a goofy face), Nacho Libre is one seriously dry-looking little flick. Combine the dreary visual style with a tone that pretty much reeks of "tongue-in-cheek racism" and an unwavering tendency to beat its every single joke, good or not, into whimpering submission -- Nacho Libre is the textbook definition of a "one-joke comedy."
Did I laugh a few times? Absolutely. Film Jack Black doing anything for 80 minutes and you're bound to wring a few yuks from the footage, but the chuckles delivered here are distressingly few and far between, and even when some of the material does elicit a giggle, it's most likely because of a stupid little fart-noise, Jack Black's insect-like eyebrows, or the actors' intentionally cartoonish deliveries. But for the amount of real laughs that Nacho Libre has to offer, I'd say it's more worthy of a $2.50 rental than of a $9.00 movie ticket. Yes, even if you're a huge Jack Black fan.Plus, and perhaps I'm just being a mite oversensitive, isn't it usually considered poor taste for a white actor to dabble in broad, obvious, and unflattering caricatures of other cultures? I'm not saying Mexicans, Jews, Polacks, Eskimos, etc., don't have a sense of humor, but if you're going to trade in stereotypes, it's probably better to do so with some semblance of wit, intelligence, or creativity. Despite its diminutive delivery of a few stray giggles, "Nacho Libre" never comes close to being witty, intelligent, or creative. It's just a funny fat dude wearing tights and doing a goofy impersonation of Speedy Gonzalez.
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originally posted: 06/16/06 15:04:08