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The Featherweight Luchador

Nacho Libre review
By Stephen Webster
June 20, 2006

The Featherweight Luchador

Nacho Libre - Written by Mike White. Directed by Jared Hess. Starring Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez, Darius Rose, Moises Arias, Eduardo Gómez, and Carlos Maycotte. 100 minutes. Rated PG for mild violence and language.

In Mexico and parts of the American Southwest, there exists a flamboyant style of wrestling (as if wrestling weren’t flamboyant enough) called Lucha Libre. Those skilled enough to become professionals in Lucha Libre are known as Luchadors. They wear extravagant clothing and masks, entertaining audiences by pitching themselves through the air and attempting to pin their opponents. Yes, Lucha Libre is an interesting sport alright. But it is no more interesting than American wrestling. And I just so happen to hate American wrestling.

So it makes sense that Jack Black’s newest comedy, Nacho Libre, would fail to entertain. Oddly enough, I was looking forward to this flick because of my love quotient for Jack Black and his manic comic sensibilities. But I was let down.

Nacho has a predictable sort-of plot. It takes place in a region of Mexico where most people speak English. Everyone is poor, of course, and the Monastery where Brother Ignacio works, tending to a troop of young orphans, has fallen on hard times. One night he sees “The Luchador” walking through town, and desires respect and fame. In secret Brother Ignacio dons the mask of the character Nacho, making a fool of himself in the Lucha circuit, for a while, and eventually obtaining the ultimate victory and saving the orphanage.

One big problem with the film lies with Nacho’s love interest, Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera). She is a far understated character, and could have been put to better use in the narrative by making her more assertive or flamboyant in one way or another. She looks kind of passive, and doesn’t act much like a Nun, a “love interest” or an authority figure, which she is to the children at the monastery. All three roles have been used for comedy to great effect in other films, but here dl la Reguera doesn’t quite hit par. Hard to say if it is the actor of the writer at fault there.

I was also disappointed in the small roll given to Nacho’s partner, Esquelto (Héctor Jiménez). His lines were half-baked and his interactions with Nacho could have been more dynamic. Some of the humor is very much left over from the director’s previous film, Napoleon Dynamite, which I did like. At least initially. Nacho’s humor is usually dry, free standing jokes that ramble on a bit longer than they should. (“I was wondering if you would like to join me in my quarters tonight … for some toast.”) Writer Mike White, also credited with School of Rock’s script, depends too much on Jack Black’s propensity for jumping around and acting goofy. That and the wrestling tip, of which there is too much; the bad, sometimes awful, choreography makes it that much more tedious.

To make matters a little worse, some people are asserting that this movie is blatantly racist. But since all comedy should be given a vast amount of leeway when dealing with such matters, I leave that to the viewer to decide. The filmmakers did hire an entire lineup of actors and actresses from the Mexican film and television industries, but even they failed to give it any semblance of grounding in reality. Once in earshot of Jack Black’s terrible Spanish accent, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Nacho Libre is good, only if you are a fan of the director’s last film, Napoleon Dynamite. Anyone else, even regular-ole’ Jack Black fans, will be disappointed. I’m sure Black will redeem himself on the July 28th launch of his next movie, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.

Two out of Five stars
** / *****

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