Orphaned and raised in the monastery where he is now the cook, Ignacio - under the pseudonym of (masked) Nacho (Jack Black), indulges his life-long passion for wrestling, incidentally making a bit of money for the kitchen, even though it is strictly forbidden by the church elders. He enlists the help of the starved and skeletal young Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez) for the deadly tag team bouts and while his physique is against him, he perseveres. Naturally, Nacho isn't acting out of purely altruistic measures, as he wishes to help Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera), a beautiful Mexican nun who has recently arrived at the monastery.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's more outrageous than hilarious, yet Nacho Libre has the same kind of sweet poignancy its filmmaker Jared Hess brought to his 2004 cult hit Napoleon Dynamite. The film's great strength is the same as its weakness, lying behind the impish furrowed expression and rotund form of the irrepressible Jack Black, who flings himself enthusiastically into the circus-like ring of Lucha Libre wrestling. By writing the character with Black in mind, Hess has created a showcase for the actor, rather than concentrate on the character itself and its wacky reality.
Watching Black in action, mind you, is pretty entertaining. He flits from conservative walnut friar's habit to ridiculous wrestling garb, flesh bulging over scarlet pants fit for a super-hero, matching red boots and gawdy turquoise stretchy tights with red knee pads. The identity of such a wrestler has to remain a secret, so Nacho's full ski-mask with butterfly eyes and letterbox mouth add to the physical ludicracy. With priceless expressions and physical comedy at times reminiscent of the silent era, Black is lovable puppy-dog style. The odd-couple pairing with Héctor Jiménez as Esqueleto, his 'horse face' wrestling partner works well and Jiménez varies his perpetual hang-dog expression with a broad toothy smile that lights up his face. They get paid even when they lose, but when Nacho says he is keen to 'hween', Esqueleto matter of factly retorts 'We never win because you're fat.' Good point.
Set in Oaxaca, Southern Mexico, which amongst other things is famous for chocolate and hot chillis, the remote monastery setting in its arid cacti-filled landscape has plenty of rustic charm. The big-hearted fat kid orphan is especially appealing and Mexican television star Ana de la Reguera is serene and angelic as novice Sister Encarnación who Nacho is keen to impress. The scenes in the wrestling ring with its headlocks, body slams and the more exotically named moves such as Camel Crunch and Anaconda Squeeze, are show-biz style acrobatics, and real professional wrestlers (including the midget duo who portray Satan's Helpers) add authenticity. The film does have heart as Nacho strives to feed the orphans, taste some glory and win the girl... but the result is a little manufactured, with the accent being on showcasing its star.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
He's been cooking left overs into muddy mush for years to feed the monks and the little orphans in the monastery off the beaten track, but Ignacio has always wanted to be one of those muscly wrestling heroes that are the superstars of their sport in Mexico, adored, and feared. His paunch and flab haven't kept up with his imagination, though, and when he makes it into the ring - after donning a ridiculous disguise and mask and calling himself Nacho - his feeble prowess is no surprise.
But he does have a tag team-mate, Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez), a young man whose body is almost emaciated with hunger, having survived on crumbs from the nachos discarded by Ignacio himself.
The set up is vaguely amusing in a boyish, overstated way, but the screenplay is never as funny as it promises to be. The antics are oafish and while many of the wrestling stunts are hefty, the action isn't as slapstick funny as we would have liked; it's no Keystone Cops or Chaplin, say, yet that's the level of physical comedy needed for a film relying on brawn, not brain.
Jack Black hams it up, Jimenez is amusingly weird (with goofy teeth and stretched lips smile), while the pretty Ana de la Reguera is suitably demure, acting as a foil for the fool. There is a hint of romantic interest for her, but Nacho Libre is PG and the bad taste opportunities are only hinted at.
Nacho Libre should make us laugh out loud several times, and I'm sorry it doesn't.
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NACHO LIBRE (PG)
CAST: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Hector Jimenez, Darius Rose, Moises Arias, Eduardo Gomez, Carlos Maycotte, Richard Montoya, Cesar Gonzalez,
PRODUCER: Jack Black, Mike White, David Klawans, Julia Pistor,
DIRECTOR: Jared Hess
SCRIPT: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, Mike White
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Xavier Perez Grobet
EDITOR: Billy Weber
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gideon Ponte
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 14, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.