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Published August 11th, 2006 | by Johan De Silva

Nacho Libre Review

Classification: 12A Director: Jared Hess Rating: 3/5

Ignacio (Black) is an orphaned friar at a Mexican monastery; not considered mature enough for proper priestly duties, he is relegated to the kitchens. Ignacio cares deeply about the orphans, but is forced to cook terrible food because there is no money for ingredients. Ignacio has always been drawn to the world of Lucha Libre, the Mexican wrestling federation, and he concludes that this is the perfect way to make money for the orphans, raise his status at the monastery and, hopefully, impress the beautiful young Sister Encarnacion (de la Reguera) at the same time.

Teaming up with the rail thin pickpocket Esqueleto (the Skeleton – Jiminez) , and renaming himself Nacho, Ignacio discovers that he has a natural talent for wrestling. Though he and Esqueleto rarely win, they are popular with the crowds, and are soon being paid to wrestle. But Nacho doesn’t want to be paid to lose. Though wrestling is banned by the monastery, and he is forced to lead a double life, Nacho yearns for the big time, to join the ranks of superstar wrestlers, to become a household name – and to make life for the orphans that little bit sweeter.

Directed by the wonderful Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), Nacho Libre immediately shares some of the same sensibility – the title sequence is equally fun. It too is set in a small community of oddballs, but the main difference is that Napoleon feels normal, while Ignacio is always a little bit lost – it’s only when he becomes a wrestler that he feels at home. But like Napoleon Dynamite its less a stomach-ache-inducing rib tickler and much more a gentle, dry comedy, populated by ever more bizarre characters; once again the underdog wins against all odds. Of course this being a Jack Black film we know he’ll triumph in the end but much of the humour comes from his journey – from the eccentric take on the training montage obligatory in all sports films to the climb to the eagle’s nest that will supposedly give him eagle powers.

Black is a fearless physical comedian; in Nacho Libre he sports a spiffy afro, moustache, and, when not in robes, wears either tights, or seventies style leisure-wear including white slacks. He clenches his buttocks for Sister Encarnacion’s benefit and makes up songs for her, complete with Tenacious D stylings. With the face of a sulky toddler and the body, frankly, to match, Black’s not afraid to show it off, but he throws himself into roles with so much energy and enthusiasm that you can only conclude that he must eat an awful lot. He also, I noticed, has inverted nipples. His Mexican accent is ludicrous, but adds to the comic effect (and they get around his pallor by giving him a Scandinavian mother). He’s admirably supported by Hector Jiminez and Ana de la Reguera, while Darius Rose as little Chancho almost steals the show.

If I have a criticism I suppose it really comes down to how much you enjoy wrestling. There is quite a lot of it, and the scenes do go on for quite a long time. By populating it with oddities Hess tries to keep it visually interesting but it does slow the momentum down. Still, fans of Black, and of Napoleon Dynamite will enjoy the show. I can’t wait to see Jared Hess’s next project. And the Tenacious D movie.

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