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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.73%
Worth A Look: 24.03%
Average: 10.85%
Pretty Bad: 21.71%
Total Crap28.68%

11 reviews, 63 user ratings

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Nacho Libre
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Another deadpan wish-fulfillment comedy from Jared Hess."
4 stars

Question: Why would smart guys like Jack Black, director Jared Hess ('Napoleon Dynamite'), and screenwriter Mike White ('Chuck & Buck,' 'School of Rock') make a dumb wrestling comedy? Answer: Because they wanted to, and because 'Nacho Libre' isn't as dumb as it seems.

Less concerned with slapstick than with the sort of bizarre deadpan laughs that were Hess's stock in trade in Napoleon Dynamite, the new film isn't nearly as quotable as anything else these three have been involved with. (Though the line about men sometimes wearing stretchy pants in their rooms for fun deserves a mention.) It's an odd duck -- the moments of physical humor you've seen in the ads are surrounded by dead air. Hess has the most languid sense of comic timing since Bill Murray at his peak.

Nacho Libre finds Black as Ignacio, or "Nacho," a friar at a remote Mexican monastery who cooks for the orphans but harbors dreams of being a great luchador. Nacho has the build for it, but not the skills. He gets a neighborhood thief named Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez), who's as bony as Nacho is fleshy, to train with him as his partner. Nacho's goal, aside from the glory of hearing thousands of fans yelling his name, is to raise money for the monastery and perhaps win the heart of the comely Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera), the orphans' new teacher.

Aside from Black and Peter Stormare in a truly weird cameo as some sort of guru who encourages Nacho to drink eagle yolk, most of the cast of Nacho Libre is Mexican. I've seen some rumbling, based on this film and the famous Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite, that Jared Hess is a racist, specifically against those of Latino extraction. Actually, the least ridiculous people in Napoleon Dynamite were non-white -- including Pedro (why else do you think everyone wore "Vote for Pedro" shirts for a while?) -- and nobody in Nacho Libre is ridiculed for being Mexican. The movie's basic plot could've unfolded anywhere, but Hess wanted to capture the colorful and specific tone of lucha libre, the heavy masked wrestlers sweating all over each other. Visually, it's an injection of sci-fi superheroics into an already vibrant culture. It made me want to find a copy of Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy, a film that could emerge from no other land.

Jack Black is strongly American and modern (the latter is the main reason he didn't quite work for me in King Kong), and here he is in a village seemingly out of time, with a barely passable accent. Yet somehow the performance comes off; it fits the general play-acting vibe of the film. He's never quite Nacho; he's never not Jack Black. It's as if someone had said "Wouldn't it be cool if we took this lucha libre flick and stuck Jack Black into it?" and then actually did it. When Black gets his music mojo working -- once when improvising at a party, once when sharing a song he wrote about his beloved Encarnación -- it doesn't take you out of the movie as much as it would if there were more of a pretense that Black is actually supposed to be Nacho. In his two films so far, Jared Hess goes beyond irony into a sort of meta-comedy. I don't quite know what's going on under the surface and I don't think Hess knows either.

The pleasures of Nacho Libre are in the details -- Esqueleto's addiction to corn on the cob dusted with chili powder; the somberly funny way Nacho and Encarnación munch toast together; the use of Os Mutantes' gaily lurching "Bat Macumba" to underscore a bit with Nacho's robe on fire. Underneath it all is a kind of deadpan joy -- familiar to those who cackled at Napoleon Dynamite dancing to get votes for Pedro. Nacho Libre is a film that Napoleon, with his affection for ninjas and his drawings of ligers, would pay to see -- or maybe even make himself.

Hess's movies are like the unassuming but ambitious doodles that kids like Napoleon or the young Nacho draw in their notebooks. I'll be curious to see what Hess doodles next.

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originally posted: 01/11/07 12:08:09
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2006 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/17/18 Ajp wales A good movie. Just fun. 4 stars
8/28/11 Jennifer We love Jack Black and this is one movie my kids love to watch. Silly but awfully funny. 5 stars
11/21/10 DaveY The silliness is fun- Jack,Hector & Darius r great & Ana is gorgeous - I luv the soundtrak 4 stars
1/25/09 Robert O'Keife David is just using the internet to vent because he is insecure about his small penis 1 stars
1/09/09 Samantha Pruitt pretty funny, very ridiculous! lot of awkward moments, 4 stars
12/03/07 Screwball The best movie I've seen about Mexican wrestling. 4 stars
10/20/07 Lynn "Get that corn outa my face!!!!" - The one and only funny line in the whole entire movie 2 stars
7/25/07 frito-laid i want my two hours! 1 stars
7/01/07 Mehmet Unal Boring and totally devoid of anything resembling wit or humour 1 stars
5/19/07 David Pollastrini PRETTY DUMB 3 stars
5/17/07 ES I wanted to like this movie but with two times watching and not making it too the end... 2 stars
1/27/07 diego Alvarez If david thinks this movie is dull, he must have no sense of humor and he is really lame 5 stars
1/23/07 Dave Hilarious movie, David just doesn't get it (or Napoleon Dynamite) 4 stars
1/11/07 rozza david cornelisu is a cunt!! its a minter of a film so is dynamite!! 5 stars
1/06/07 jack diy "or how a large percentage of Mexicans are retarded" ...what tha fuck? fuck you david 1 stars
12/24/06 11pop It's a piece of crap 1 stars
12/05/06 maggie truly dreadful piece of filmmaking 1 stars
12/04/06 Carson I nominate david cornelius for biggest douche in the universe, and this movie was great 5 stars
11/17/06 George The only way to describe this movie is STUPID, but its so stupid that you have to laugh!!! 5 stars
11/17/06 Paul lots of memorable moments, if you`re lookinf for Casablanca go elsewhere 4 stars
11/11/06 surfric I'm a JB fan, but this is strictly a time killer. Laughed maybe twice. 3 stars
11/11/06 DIANA there were some funny moments, not a lot but some 3 stars
11/10/06 Dan Relax, stop being so high brow. It's a classic. 5 stars
11/09/06 Babz I had a good laugh. 3 stars
11/08/06 Derek Just right 5 stars
11/01/06 Mike Really really funny! A breath of fresh air. Laughed my balls off all the way through! 5 stars
11/01/06 ad fresh 4 stars
10/31/06 Bundy Ok, seriously this movie was pretty funny, and David Cornelius is an assfuck. 5 stars
10/31/06 Ryan_A Laughed once - the corncob to the eye bit. Other than that, surprisingly unfunny. 2 stars
10/31/06 ES Ho-hum, almost not worth the watch but it passes time, I guess 3 stars
10/30/06 Roy Smith I might consult a lawyer - this was advertised as a Comedy. 1 stars
8/28/06 Barry Norman what a load of bollcks, jack black must have a movie deal to do this shite 1 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist An ownable Jack Black comedy,about as good as Nepolian Dynamite.Both cult classic-ish 5 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant I wanted to love this movie. Regrettably, it sucked big, floppy donkey dicks. 2 stars
7/25/06 Alex Paquin Unbearably offensive, hispanophobic, and not at all funny. A waste of Jack Black's talent. 1 stars
7/19/06 Marjorie The jokes were puerile and his fat gut was repulsive. 2 stars
7/13/06 Captain Highcrime The least they could have done is pass out some Taco Bell...lost it's comic punch quick 2 stars
7/09/06 Mike Awesome movie - well crafted. Seaver's Review - also Awesome! 5 stars
7/09/06 Edler Hilarious part of the goofy comedy genre. But if you don't know Mexico, you won't get it. 5 stars
7/03/06 Heather Weak movie, wait until the DVD comes out and rent it instead 3 stars
7/01/06 Gerry Irons Too silly and long on one joke -with no wit or substance 2 stars
6/30/06 Mike (of Mike & the MORONS) Great! Lots to laugh at, and great (though odd) soundtrack. 4 stars
6/26/06 Mase Like a long bad snl skit, with Black trapped in the role and a PG rating. 2 stars
6/26/06 verdesage this movie is great and completely worth seeing! theres nothing not to like about it! 5 stars
6/25/06 pin What's with Hess and food shots? Nice pacing, Black was hilarious. 4 stars
6/24/06 ELLY the best 1 stars
6/22/06 Caiphn You people are clearly retarded. 1 stars
6/22/06 Tommy The worst movie I have ever seen bar none 1 stars
6/20/06 pedro painful 2 stars
6/20/06 jitters So, good-natured, pleasant and simple are bad things? I loved it. Viva Nacho! 4 stars
6/19/06 earlrural About as good as I expected. Much more Hollywood than Napoleon Dynamite. 4 stars
6/19/06 John Aster Habig Jack Black carries the film through Hess's slow pace and keeps the laughs constant 5 stars
6/19/06 Darius Silly plot, yes; unbelievable, yes; hilarious, yes; Hector Jimenez, fantastic 5 stars
6/19/06 Kell Dixon Nacho liber was the worst movie I have paid to see in a long time. The end 1 stars
6/18/06 lee Great attention to detail!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/17/06 Stacy Started out kind of slow for me, but definitely worth seeing. 4 stars
6/17/06 nachooo JB was AWESOME in this role. the movie was laugh out loud funny for about 90% of the time. 5 stars
6/17/06 Evil Wolfie At least its better then Napolion Dynamite. 3 stars
6/16/06 KingNeutron Wrestling was good; rest of the movie needed a REAL DIRECTOR + EDITING. JB's worst effort. 2 stars
6/08/06 CJ Payne very funny ,good date movie. 5 stars
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  16-Jun-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006



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