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"Nacho Libre": No one has ever been more at home in tights than Jack Black

by JD Warnock on June 16, 2006

in Print Reviews

When you see a movie poster with Jack Black in a Mexican wrestling costume you really ought to know what you’re in for. If not, and you were hoping for – I don’t know…an elevated comedy experience – it would be a bit like waltzing into the Ben and Jerry’s and demanding a car battery.

Director Jared Hess has made one film – “Napoleon Dynamite.” Jack Black has many faces, all of which are slight variations on one character. Together they have conspired to make one film called “Nacho Libre.” It is exactly what you would expect from the mind behind “Dynamite” and the man who couldn’t tone down his thing, even for a Peter Jackson blockbuster.

Who knew the shelf-life on Jack Black’s schtick would last anywhere near this long? He has definitely come a long way from “Never Ending Story 3,” or the cameo in “Biodome.” I remember seeing Black for the first time in a small role on an X-Files episode from 1995, his repertoire was not yet perfected, but even then he was memorable. It wasn’t until the “Tenacious D” episodes started airing along with “Mr. Show” on HBO that I signed on as a massive fan of Black’s hilarious persona and wicked musical talent.

I was running around this time last year championing what I thought would be Black’s big moment, a lead in “King Kong.” I was certain he was destined to breakout like other thespians before him – Bill Murray, Jim Carrey or Robin Williams – comedians who cut their teeth doing wacky, over the top work and surprised everyone with incredible skill and nuanced dramatic turns the first chance they got. Wow…was I wrong about that. In addition to a sizable list of other complaints with Peter Jackson’s follow-up to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I thought Black was ridiculous. Subsequently, I realized recently that had Jackson chosen to present “Kong” as a silent film – complete with dialogue cards and organ music – Black’s exaggerations would have been perfect and I would’ve loved the movie. It really was all the talking and story line that ruined that one – go figure – the gorilla kicked ass.

“Nacho Libre” utilizes every trick in Black’s armada. Some of which are enhanced by the surly mustache that says – no really I’m a Mexican fryer who makes beans at a monastery, and also since I was a small boy all I’ve ever wanted to be was a Lucha Libre wrestler. “Nacho Libre” is weird and not always in a good way, but often enough that I found it amusing.

While “Nacho Libre” definitely brought the funny, it won’t yield the marketability of “Napoleon Dynamite.” I’m afraid you will likely not be able to pick up “Nacho Libre” trading cards at your local gas station or sport an overpriced, poorly made “Nacho” belt buckle from Urban Outfitters. “Dynamite” was nothing short of a sensation – becoming a cult classic and spawning tons of merchandise – entirely because of how perversely quotable the film was.

Hess didn’t stray far from the formula that worked the first time. Deliberate pacing and attention to quirky unnecessary moments that make for comedy gold. Hess did make use of what shall hence forth be known as “The Pedro Device.” Hector Jimenez – who’s only other film role is “Kazaam” any Shaq fans out there? – plays Esqueleto Nacho’s trusty sidekick and unwilling wrestling partner. Like Pedro, Esqueleto is hysterical with his slow delivery and keeps the train on the tracks when the main character has tripped the “enough already” alarm.

“Nacho Libre” is absolutely absurd. In the end its funny and bares little resemblance to a film that would star anyone other than Jack Black. I’ll let him off the hook one of these days for the “Kong” thing. In the meantime “Nacho Libre” isn’t Shakespeare, it’s Jack Black in a Mexican wrestling mask, what did you expect? 

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