Nacho Libre
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Jared Hess
scr Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, Mike White
with Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez, Richard Montoya, Darius Rose, Moises Arias, Eduardo Gómez, Carlos Maycotte, Cesar Gonzalez, Enrique Muñoz, Rafael Montalvo, Troy Gentile
release US 16.Jun.06,
UK 11.Aug.06
06/US Paramount 1h33

And in this corner: Black with Jiménez (above) and de la Reguera (below)

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Nacho Libre The makers of Napoleon Dynamite are back with another comedy that hinges on deriding ordinary people. At least the hysterically energetic Jack Black generates some sympathy.

Ignacio (Black) has grown up in a Oaxaca orphanage, forced into menial labour by the monks he aspires to join. But he also harbours a desire to become a luchador and take on the notorious Ramses (Gonzalez) in the ring. Using the wrestler name Nacho, he finds a training partner, the rake-thin Esqueleto (Jiménez), and they're amazed how much they earn when they lose. Which is all the time. Yes, Ignacio has a way to go before he faces Ramses. Especially as he also hopes to impress a hot new nun (de la Reguera).

As with his previous film, director-cowriter Hess delights in ridiculing normal people for their age, weight, ethnicity, faith, anything he can make fun of. And he does it in the same languorous style, simply pointing his camera at a face and asking us to laugh at it. But this is actually rather offensive, especially when you're making a film set in a Mexican monastery and half of the humour is supposed to come from silly English accents and religious beliefs.

The slow pacing only rarely allows the wackiness to blossom into something sublime. Although there here are moments of genius, such as the hilariously outrageous fight sequences, which are brilliantly choreographed. Overall the film is charming and goofy, but only rarely laugh-out-loud amusing. The worst bit is the pointless and unfunny training montage that asks us to find underpants, cowpats and bee stings inherently comical.

Hess clearly doesn't understand that genuine comedy needs context. His strain of humour is of the cruel post-Gen X variety, valuing mockery above wit. So this film's only salvation is its adept cast, who all give heartfelt performances that win us over. Black is encouraged to go for broke, with unrestrained physical silliness so cartoonish that it's amazing we engage with Ignacio as much as we do. Black and Jiménez emerge as a terrific movie duo, which makes us wish the film had a sharper director to bring them to life.

cert 12 themes, violence, vulgarity, innuendo 4.Jul.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Nacho Libre Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "I can see how this movie is compared to Napoleon Dynamite not only by the director, but the tone of the movie. However, this movie actually had a purpose from the beginning through the end. The Lucha Libre (WWF with Spanish flavor) was well spoofed (Jack Black was hilarious as Ignacio, aka Nacho), and as a whole it was a silly, funny, but also endearing movie." (21.Aug.06)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall