The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, June 19, 2006

Nacho Libre (2006)

You know?  I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this tale of the hapless priest Nacho (Jack Black) who dreams of becoming a Mexican wrestler.  Drop-dead comedy?  Queasy cultural parody?  Not sure.  But I saw it in a theater packed with Hispanics, and they loved it, so I have to assume that it is as affectionate as it initially seemed.  The trick here is that the director (Jared Hess, of “Napoleon Dynamite”) has reeled Black in just a tad, so that he is actually playing a character rather than just Jack Black (which would actually be entertaining enough).  What results is a surprisingly sweet-natured tale of dreamers, losers, people who are holding onto the world by their fingernails.  Nacho, you see, wants to make money wrestling so that he can buy decent food for orphans.  And with that totally unfair gambit, you feel like a scrooge not to cheer for all of the nuttiness.  Nacho, you see, has a platonic crush on a nun that is so heartfelt and beautifully played on both sides that you find yourself confused: exactly what am I supposed to be hoping for, here?  Nacho, you see, has a skeletally thin wrestling partner (Hector Jimenez) with whom he has such natural timing that it brings to mind classic comedy teams such as Laurel and Hardy, or Abbot and Costello.  Director Hess is a genuine talent, with a feeling for quirky, forgotten characters living in the shadows of society…but he never mocks them, and allows them to keep their dignity…and their dreams.  This is a very funny, curiously honest movie, and I have to admit I loved it.  Give Nacho a big hand and a solid “B.”

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