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Nacho Libre (2006)

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Score: 7/10

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: June 16th, 2006 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Jared Hess Actors: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Hector Jimenez, Darius A. Rose, Moises Arias, Diego Eduardo Gomez, Carlos Maycotte, Richard Montoya, Cesar Gonzalez, Carla Jimenez


ver since he was a young boy at the monastery, Ignacio dreamed of being a professional wrestler. But the monks insistented that he shape his destiny instead as a cook. As an adult, “Nacho” (Jack Black) is now a terrible chef, and still harbors his fantasy of donning the cape of a luchador and performing lucha libre freestyle wrestling in front of packed, cheering crowds. When the brotherhood receives a new teacher, Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera) from the neighboring convent, Nacho is inspired to pursue an ad for novice wrestlers to prove his worth to her, even though she believes such celebrities are false idols and certainly not a career to celebrate, and he envisages donning a shroud of anonymity.

Nevertheless, Nacho heads into town to recruit local thief Steven “Esqueleto” (Hector Jimenez) as a sparring and tag-team partner for the upcoming tournament. They hope to taste the glory of athletic victory and nab the 200 peso prize. Although they lose, they win over the crowds, prompting the organizer to give them a cut and invite them back for next week’s event at a larger arena. “When you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room,” Nacho explains to Chancho (Darius A. Rose), an orphan who catches the aspiring fighter trying on a new costume. Desperate to rise to the top of the profession, woo Encarnacion, and fulfill his responsibilities to the children, Nacho is forced to lead a double life – or risk everything by revealing his alter ego.

The action scenes are actually quite well done, mixing unrealistic wirework and exaggerated maneuvers with authentic bone-crushing combat – oftentimes utilizing trios of combatants or more. The physical choreography is effective, even when it’s overly goofy. Just as the matches sway in and out of realism, so does Black’s Hispanic accent, which routinely disappears completely. Supplementing the PG-level scrapping (outside of bullfighting and fleeing from bees) is plenty of bathroom humor, including farting and grasping fresh animal droppings. The imagery also betrays a strange preoccupation with food (having no bearing on Ignacio’s primary job), as seen in director Jared Hess’ previous film “Napoleon Dynamite” (at one point, Nacho bites into a juicy watermelon while in the ring).

That same level of eccentricity is apparent in this new work, featuring quirky editing and framing (most notably, two-dimensional angles) and high contrast cinematography with vivid colors. Inexplicably, the filmmakers chose not to use the line “based on a true story,” which would have been hilarious considering the unbelievable yet real-life basis on a Catholic reverend, who raised money for his orphanage by becoming a luchador. Much of “Nacho Libre” is Wes Anderson-like, with peculiar characters and odder undertakings, plastered against strikingly colorful backdrops. Here, the music is also grandly fitting. But Hess doesn’t take it all far enough (the PG rating seems unusually restrictive), especially with the audacity of gags and the frequency of jokes, allowing lulls to interfere with the wittier jabs at religion and heroism, role models revealing their true natures, and the love story with an exceptionally attractive nun. Still, the ending takes on an unexpectedly rousing sort of “Rocky” vibe that largely redeems the underwhelming moments.

– Mike Massie


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