Nacho Libre review by Matt Fuerst


Merriam Webster helped me out with kitsch I never have cracked a dictionary for that one, but I think I've used kitsch in a sentence or two in my day with a vague, fuzzy notion of what it meant. For example, I certainly would have described Napoleon Dynamite as kitsch. Reflecting on the definition above, I'm not sure that's really the proper word to describe what I was thinking. Really, I found Napoleon Dynamite as an exercise in being different for the sake of being different. A few funny quotables, some crazy caricature's, a llama and Matt is pretty much bored for 100 some minutes. My general distaste for Napoleon Dynamite also served to essentially isolate me from the rest of the human race, who looked at me like I had a third nipple on my forehead at the very idea that someone didn't adore it, beginning to end. Anyway... an email arrived at Jackass Critics central for an opportunity to view Nacho Libre, ND director Jared Hess' second mainstream film, like a bass to a banjo minnow, I took the bait. Why? Well.. Jack Black is funny, and I watch a lot of bad movies. So... can Black save Nacho Libre from entering the Matt Fuerst Movie Hall of Shame?

Nacho Libre has one of the most straightforward stories I've come across in a film. I generally like to bust out a few paragraphs of story summary, and in planning on writing the review, I was scratching my head how I was going to be able to fill up more than a handful of sentences. Let's see how painful I can make this. Nacho (Jack Black) is a friar in a small Mexican church. He has dreamt his whole life of becoming a Luchador (Mexican flashy wrestler). Through a series of circumstances, Nacho meets up with Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez) and they enter a local wrestling contest as the underdog tag team. Nacho is conflicted, as his wrestling is against church doctrine, but he hopes to wrestle to improve the lives of the orphans, and to impress the new nun, Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Regura). That's about it. We've got the antagonist, the champion wrestler Ramses, the proverbial mountain for Nacho to climb, but really there isn't much here. And that's not altogether awful. There have been hilarious movies based on far less. But, I don't think anyone can actually accuse Nacho Libre of being hilarious.

Jared Hess' style of writing can be described as pretty bare bones. He has a very vague plot, and then sort of "super sizes" his characters to attempt to fill in 90 some minutes of drama-comedy. This is evidenced in both Nacho Libre and Napoleon Dynamite. What the hell actually happens in Napoleon Dynamite? Heck if I know, but Napoleon sure had some funny t-shirts! Ditto for Nacho Libre. The basic concepts of riffing on lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), itself already a pretty silly piece of entertainment, and taking it to some extremes doesn't really count much as a creative process to me. For me, the great hope was in the reigns being taken off Jack Black and letting him go a little crazy in the role. Black is funny, but you can tell the movie was created with the kiddies in mind. A PG rating is present, Nickelodeon is a producer, and there's a Nintendo DS Nacho Libre game. Jack Black is kept in "safe mode" for the whole movie, no risks taken, nothing extreme.

I won't lie, there are a few chuckles present. The wrestling scenes are all compotently accomplished, and really aren't that far off the craziness that ensues during a real lucha libre contest (hey, I watch Telemundo when I am at someone's house with cable!). Lazy writing aside: ferocious, furry midget tag teams are going to illict a laugh. Jack Black is able to wiggle his eyebrows and scream like a woman and get a few chuckles out of the most stoic critic. The connections between Nacho and the orphans, and Nacho and Sister Encarnacion lead to a few moments of sweetness, but still not enough to really make you care much about what's going on onscreen.

Nacho Libre has been described as a movie that "grows on you". That could be, I've experienced a few comedies that really didn't click with me on a first viewing (most notably, The Big Lebowski) but I'd say I am pretty confident that Hess' style just doesn't click with me. It's just too kitsch.

3 out of 10 Jackasses
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