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11 reviews, 63 user ratings

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Nacho Libre
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. Gringos In Tights"
1 stars

I like to think that when it comes to matters of cinematic comedy that my taste is broad and all-encompassing–I can laugh out loud at both the erudite wit of the Ealing Studios catalogue and the knockabout silliness of the Three Stooges. Even gross-out comedy can be amusing when done properly–just a few hours before writing this review, I watched and was amused by a film in which the last third of the running time revolved around the performance of a donkey act of the type that wouldn’t be seen in a Francis the Talking Mule movie. And yet, when it comes to “Nacho Libre,” I am simply at a loss for words. With most failed comedies, I can at least understand why someone might have found the material funny at some point–even the notion of Rob Schneider as an incompetent gigolo has a glimmer of promise to it–but with this film, I was so alienated from the proceedings that I couldn’t begin to understand what exactly it was that I was supposed to be finding funny at any given point. Watching it, I was reminded of that astounding scene in Albert Brooks’s “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” in which he arrogantly performed a comedy routine that few people in his India-based audience could have possibly understood in the first place because the jokes, such as a bit about Halloween, involved subjects of which they had no working knowledge or concept–the difference, of course, being that it was far more entertaining to watch that audience than to be a member of it.

Jack Black, that most irrepressible of performers, stars as Nacho (short for Ignacio), a good-hearted Mexican who works as a cook in the remote monastery/orphanage where he has lived since he was a child. However, ever since he was a child, Nacho has dreamed of achieving fortune and glory by becoming a wrestler. Partly to raise money for the children of the orphanage and partly to win the love of the sweet Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera), apparently a new arrival from the Immaculate Sisterhood of the Winona Ryder convent nearby, Nacho acquires a sidekick, street thief Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez) and an outlandish costume–complete with mask and “stretchy pants”–and, after a suitably wacky training montage, the two step into the ring and are promptly stomped. However, they are still paid for their troubles and decide to return week after week to keep fighting while Nacho tries to keep his double life a secret from the others at the monastery. Eventually, he lucks into a final brawl with the top Luchadore, the nasty Ramses (Cesar Gonzalez), and the film concludes with a match so gripping that I cannot recall a single detail about it even though it has only been a couple of hours since I left the theater.

Since there is hardly enough material here to fill up an average “SNL” sketch, “Nacho Libre” quickly degenerates into a series of scenes in which Jack Black, utilizing an accent that is pure Speedy Gonzales and an ill-fitting costume, gets smacked around in a wrestling ring by a series of increasingly goofy-looking competitors. Beyond that, there is no story to speak of–the film shambles on from event to event in such a haphazard manner that it feels at times like a rough assembly of footage rather than a finished film–and the jokes are virtually nonexistent. This is the kind of film that just assumes that the sight of something like a gauche polyester shirt or an ear of corn slathered in mayo is so inherently amusing that an extended close-up of them is comic gold all by itself. Of course, these items can theoretically be the inspiration for great comedy but that also requires someone to take those elements and make something of them, a step that no one involved with “Nacho Libre” seems to have bothered to tackle.

Amazingly, “Nacho Libre” even manages to squander its chief asset–the considerable presence of Jack Black. Although he has the persona of a wild man, his best performances (those would be “High Fidelity” and “School of Rock”) have been in films in which the directors figured out a way to channel his volcanic energy into a fully-formed character. Here, Black is pretty much allowed to run riot over the proceedings and while he somehow manages to remain relatively likable throughout, he quickly wears out his welcome with his incessant mugging, screaming and brutal pratfalls. In addition, he gets no fewer than three chances to break out into songs in the style of his work as one-half of Tenacious D–the tunes are amusing enough but those scenes are all about Black playing to the rafters at the expense of maintaining a consistent character.

“Nacho Libre” was directed by Jared Hess, whose previous work was the fluke hit “Napoleon Dynamite.” While plenty of people loved that film, I found it to be a smug, condescending and supremely unfunny stab at sub-Wes Anderson whimsy and his work here is just more of the same. Many of the scenes, in fact, feel like rehashes of the stuff he did in that earlier film–Nacho’s sidekick is basically a retread of Pedro and Nacho’s awkward romance with Encarnacion (“Would you like to come to my quarters for toast?”) mirrors the numerous tentative flirtations–and while you could almost excuse it then as first-time jitters, it just comes off as sheer laziness here. As far as I can see, Hess has yet to demonstrate any discernible sense of genuine comic style or timing–some scenes (such as a pointless party sequence) go on forever without a single honest laugh while others (especially a brief appearance from Peter Stormare as a goofy guru) start promisingly and then go nowhere. Hess can’t even get a laugh out of the sight of Luchadores talking shop while decked out in business attire and wrestling masks, a seemingly foolproof comedic sight that he renders as drably grotesque as everything else.

Of course, and this is where the confusion I mentioned in the first paragraph comes in, millions of people loved “Napoleon Dynamite” and I have to admit that the audience that I saw “Nacho Libre” with seemed to be laughing heartily throughout while I sat there trying in vain to see what it was that they were seeing. (It can’t just be the sight of a chunky gringo in tights smacking people and getting smacked, can it?) Clearly there is something about Hess and his brand of comedy that is reaching out to people and I presume that those on that particular wavelength will find this effort as amusing as his last one. For the rest of us, “Nacho Libre” is slightly less amusing than being put in an especially sweaty headlock for 90 straight minutes.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14549&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/16/06 00:21:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2006 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/16/18 Ajp wales A good movie. Just fun. 4 stars
8/27/11 Jennifer We love Jack Black and this is one movie my kids love to watch. Silly but awfully funny. 5 stars
11/21/10 DaveY The silliness is fun- Jack,Hector & Darius r great & Ana is gorgeous - I luv the soundtrak 4 stars
1/25/09 Robert O'Keife David is just using the internet to vent because he is insecure about his small penis 1 stars
1/09/09 Samantha Pruitt pretty funny, very ridiculous! lot of awkward moments, 4 stars
12/02/07 Screwball The best movie I've seen about Mexican wrestling. 4 stars
10/19/07 Lynn "Get that corn outa my face!!!!" - The one and only funny line in the whole entire movie 2 stars
7/24/07 frito-laid i want my two hours! 1 stars
6/30/07 Mehmet Unal Boring and totally devoid of anything resembling wit or humour 1 stars
5/18/07 David Pollastrini PRETTY DUMB 3 stars
5/17/07 ES I wanted to like this movie but with two times watching and not making it too the end... 2 stars
1/26/07 diego Alvarez If david thinks this movie is dull, he must have no sense of humor and he is really lame 5 stars
1/22/07 Dave Hilarious movie, David just doesn't get it (or Napoleon Dynamite) 4 stars
1/11/07 rozza david cornelisu is a cunt!! its a minter of a film so is dynamite!! 5 stars
1/05/07 jack diy "or how a large percentage of Mexicans are retarded" ...what tha fuck? fuck you david 1 stars
12/24/06 11pop It's a piece of crap 1 stars
12/05/06 maggie truly dreadful piece of filmmaking 1 stars
12/03/06 Carson I nominate david cornelius for biggest douche in the universe, and this movie was great 5 stars
11/16/06 George The only way to describe this movie is STUPID, but its so stupid that you have to laugh!!! 5 stars
11/16/06 Paul lots of memorable moments, if you`re lookinf for Casablanca go elsewhere 4 stars
11/10/06 surfric I'm a JB fan, but this is strictly a time killer. Laughed maybe twice. 3 stars
11/10/06 DIANA there were some funny moments, not a lot but some 3 stars
11/09/06 Dan Relax, stop being so high brow. It's a classic. 5 stars
11/08/06 Babz I had a good laugh. 3 stars
11/07/06 Derek Just right 5 stars
10/31/06 Mike Really really funny! A breath of fresh air. Laughed my balls off all the way through! 5 stars
10/31/06 ad fresh 4 stars
10/30/06 Bundy Ok, seriously this movie was pretty funny, and David Cornelius is an assfuck. 5 stars
10/30/06 Ryan_A Laughed once - the corncob to the eye bit. Other than that, surprisingly unfunny. 2 stars
10/30/06 ES Ho-hum, almost not worth the watch but it passes time, I guess 3 stars
10/29/06 Roy Smith I might consult a lawyer - this was advertised as a Comedy. 1 stars
8/27/06 Barry Norman what a load of bollcks, jack black must have a movie deal to do this shite 1 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist An ownable Jack Black comedy,about as good as Nepolian Dynamite.Both cult classic-ish 5 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant I wanted to love this movie. Regrettably, it sucked big, floppy donkey dicks. 2 stars
7/25/06 Alex Paquin Unbearably offensive, hispanophobic, and not at all funny. A waste of Jack Black's talent. 1 stars
7/18/06 Marjorie The jokes were puerile and his fat gut was repulsive. 2 stars
7/12/06 Captain Highcrime The least they could have done is pass out some Taco Bell...lost it's comic punch quick 2 stars
7/08/06 Mike Awesome movie - well crafted. Seaver's Review - also Awesome! 5 stars
7/08/06 Edler Hilarious part of the goofy comedy genre. But if you don't know Mexico, you won't get it. 5 stars
7/02/06 Heather Weak movie, wait until the DVD comes out and rent it instead 3 stars
6/30/06 Gerry Irons Too silly and long on one joke -with no wit or substance 2 stars
6/29/06 Mike (of Mike & the MORONS) Great! Lots to laugh at, and great (though odd) soundtrack. 4 stars
6/26/06 Mase Like a long bad snl skit, with Black trapped in the role and a PG rating. 2 stars
6/25/06 verdesage this movie is great and completely worth seeing! theres nothing not to like about it! 5 stars
6/24/06 pin What's with Hess and food shots? Nice pacing, Black was hilarious. 4 stars
6/24/06 ELLY the best 1 stars
6/22/06 Caiphn You people are clearly retarded. 1 stars
6/21/06 Tommy The worst movie I have ever seen bar none 1 stars
6/19/06 pedro painful 2 stars
6/19/06 jitters So, good-natured, pleasant and simple are bad things? I loved it. Viva Nacho! 4 stars
6/19/06 earlrural About as good as I expected. Much more Hollywood than Napoleon Dynamite. 4 stars
6/18/06 John Aster Habig Jack Black carries the film through Hess's slow pace and keeps the laughs constant 5 stars
6/18/06 Darius Silly plot, yes; unbelievable, yes; hilarious, yes; Hector Jimenez, fantastic 5 stars
6/18/06 Kell Dixon Nacho liber was the worst movie I have paid to see in a long time. The end 1 stars
6/18/06 lee Great attention to detail!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/17/06 Stacy Started out kind of slow for me, but definitely worth seeing. 4 stars
6/17/06 nachooo JB was AWESOME in this role. the movie was laugh out loud funny for about 90% of the time. 5 stars
6/17/06 Evil Wolfie At least its better then Napolion Dynamite. 3 stars
6/16/06 KingNeutron Wrestling was good; rest of the movie needed a REAL DIRECTOR + EDITING. JB's worst effort. 2 stars
6/07/06 CJ Payne very funny ,good date movie. 5 stars
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  16-Jun-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Oct-2006



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