The sight of portly Canadian singer-actor Jack Black in Mexican luchador or wrestling tights is almost funny enough to base an entire feature, but not quite.“Nacho Libre” is one of those films where the personnel involved are more interesting than the movie itself. Director Jered Hess follows up his successful “Napoleon Dynamite” with a new film that lacks all of the idiosyncratic charm of the earlier effort.
In the previous movie, Idaho came off as strange land that was in its own way as exotic as something J.R.R. Tolkien might have created. With a Mexican monastery as a setting, Hess’ imagination isn’t as fertile.
A lowly friar named Ignacio (Black) has spent most of his life cooking for the orphans and the monks who live with him. Better known as Nacho (presumably for the fact that he both makes and eats a lot of nachos), he has never been able to get past his secret longing to become a luchador.
He forms a tag team with a skinny thief named Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez), and the two secretly enter the ring for real. Despite some painful training, Nacho and Esqueleto lose most of their matches but earn enough money to prepare better meals for the orphans. The pay also helps make up for being clobbered by a pair of ferocious midgets.
Back at the monastery, however, his fellow friars would not look kindly on his new activities, and a pretty nun (Ana de la Reguera) that Nacho pines for thinks luchadors are doing the Devil’s work.
Despite some over the top moments, “Nacho Libre” seems curiously listless. Black can earn a few chuckles simply from the fact that his bulky frame belies his volcanic energy. Big guys aren’t supposed to be able to run around like he does.
Many of the gags that Hess, his wife Jerusha and “School of Rock” writer Mike White come up with fall as flatly as Nacho does during the middle of his matches. After a while, it becomes tiresome to watch Nacho and Esqueleto taking yet another beating.
In “Napoleon Dynamite,” our nerdy hero gradually became more dignified as the movie progressed, making him progress from a butt of jokes to a genuinely sympathetic character. Nacho’s transformation isn’t as well conceived.
Both “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre” had loose storylines, but the former had so many moments quirky surprise, that the threadbare story didn’t matter. It also helped that Hess avoided using a lot of flatulence gags and other overused crutches that have used to death in the first film. This time around Hess embraces bodily function humor but lacks Mel Brooks’ or even the Farrelly Brothers' gift for making it amusing.“Nacho Libre” would have been more enjoyable if Hess had found a way to present Mexico in the same oddly delightful way he depicted Idaho.