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Nacho Libre

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 06/17/06 22:29:06

"100 minutes of insulting, mind-numbing, sub-awful badness."
1 stars (Sucks)

Here now is the film “Nacho Libre” in its entirety: Jack Black, who is fat, has a moustache, and speaks in a funny accent, wants to wrestle. The end.

If you’re thinking, “hey, that’s not nearly enough movie to fill a full 100 minutes,” well: a) you’d be so very, sadly right; and b) you obviously have not heard that “Nacho Libre” has been made by the same guy who made “Napoleon Dynamite,” a film that tried with furious desperation to keep its solitary joke alive for its entire running time. For some reason - I like to think it’s because there is no justice in this universe - “Dynamite” became an enormous success, despite the fact that it is a horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible movie. Success, deserved or not, means we now get more from writer/director Jared Hess and his brother, co-writer Jerusha Hess. Hooray.

Oh, but it gets worse. Somewhere along the way, Mike White, the writer responsible for “Dead Man On Campus” (lame), “Chuck & Buck” (horrible), “The Good Girl” (terrible), and “School of Rock” (lousy), got reeled in to assist with the screenplay duties. The universe obviously hates us all.

Their movie (in which Black plays a bumbling friar who moonlights as a wrestler in order to raise money for his orphanage) is supposed to pay loving tribute to the Mexican style of wrestling known as lucha libre, although all it really does is tell us that fat people are funny because they are fat, skinny people are funny because they are skinny, little people are funny because they are little, funny-looking people are funny because they are funny-looking, and people with accents are funny because they have accents. A good deal of the attempted comedy here comes as the camera lingers on some unfortunate extra who, say, has an overbite. Hess - whose “Dynamite” confusingly wanted to show us, by making fun of goofy people, that it’s not nice to make fun of goofy people - seems to have a thing for hiring awkward folks for his cheap amusement. This may be because he is heartless and cruel; this may be because he genuinely thinks there is some sort of comic beauty in the sub-average looks of certain people; or this may be simply because he’s too lacking in basic comedy skills that he simply aims low, finding easy hilarity in the face of an ugly person.

I’ll guess it’s the third option. After all, Hess’ films are stuffed to the gills with laziness. Consider many scenes in this film that drag on and on and on, grasping for humor, falling short every time. What Hess does, then, is insert the sound effect of a very loud, very fake fart. I can see the Hesses, White, and Black gathered around the editing room, worried that their film has gone beyond unfunny and has entered that special realm of dreadful reserved for movies starring Martin Lawrence or Rob Schneider.

“I know what to do,” Hess declares boldly. “Put a fart in there!”

“But Jerry,” says the editor, his soul drained from having to sift through mountains of footage in which Black’s co-star, Héctor Jiménez, has to flirt comically with an overweight actress, “a fart sound wouldn’t make any sense. Jack doesn’t mention any farting, nobody else reacts to any farting. You just want random fart noises to pop up every now and then?”

“Yup, that’s exactly right! Just think of it: all those scenes where Jack’s seen sitting on a toilet - because, come on, man, taking a dump is, like, so hilarious! - all those scenes are only the appetizer. The main course is Jack farting all the time. That, and the ugly old people. Comedy gold!”

It’s around the third time a foley artist inserted a fart effect that I began to feel genuine embarrassment. Not for me, nor for the people that made this movie, but for the others in the audience. These people had spent their honest, hard-earned dollars on an evening’s entertainment, and instead they got stuck watching jokes about how Jack Black looks funny in tights, or how fat kids can’t get their shirts on all the way because they’re so fat, or how a large percentage of Mexicans are retarded.

(Note: I’m fairly convinced that the movie is not intentionally racist in any way. In fact, their message here is that people can look and act nerdy in all cultures. That said, the movie is so poorly constructed and so hard-up for humor at the expense of innocent people that one can very well walk away, having seen all these dim-witted, unkempt foreigners, with the feeling that “Nacho Libre” exists entirely to make fun of people who look, talk, or act differently than Hess does.)

Heck, we don’t even get interesting wrestling scenes. For a guy who professes to love the sport so much, Hess shows a singular lacking of the basic understanding of how to film the sport and make it remotely interesting. How can anyone possibly make the sight of seven masked wrestlers in a chaos-fueled ring seem dull? Somehow, through a disinterest in choreography, a failure to know where to place the camera and how to edit the shots together, and a complete inability to earn a single laugh or thrill from a sport that is inherently both exciting and hilarious, Hess manages to not care at all about the most important moments in his film. Did he figure they’d just work themselves out while he was kicking back, thinking up new ways to film Black walking out of a freshly-flushed bathroom?

And then, sadly but surely, comes the part when the script simply reads “insert kooky Jack Black song here.” Yes, folks, there is a point where, for no reason other than somebody on the set was a Tenacious D fan, Jack Black is asked to completely break character, sing one of his signature so-faux-serious-it’s-silly tunes, and, to top it all off, look directly into the camera all the while. It is the single worst moment in a movie I have seen all year, and I’ve seen “Grandma’s Boy,” “Bloodrayne,” and “RV.”

Ultimately, what we have in “Nacho Libre” is a movie that (surprise! just like “Dynamite”) struggles way too hard to become an instant cult favorite. This is another attempt at prefab hip, but you cannot design cult-ness - although that never stops Hess from trying. Here, we get funny accents and illogical bits of “comic” dialogue that are created merely for teenagers to impersonate while strolling the mall, most likely on their way to Hot Topic to buy a “Nacho” t-shirt, perhaps one they can wear when their “Vote For Pedro” shirt’s in the wash.

Concerned only with inventing hip quotables and loud toilet gags, Hess and company fail in every single aspect of comic filmmaking. This is a horribly written, horribly performed, and horribly put-together movie, one that does not zing but instead drags itself along from weak comic set-up to weak comic set-up (most of which fail to result in any remote form of payoff), uninterested in things like timing or clever wordplay, not when there’s a goofy accent to be used or an ugly old guy to ridicule. “Nacho Libre” is the kind of awful movie that ruins your whole day, leaving you angry for hours, wondering to yourself why you bothered sitting through the whole damn thing.

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