Jack Black has no shame, of that we can be sure; but we cannot help but to love him for it. His brand of comedy is spastic, abrasive, and often dances along the fine line between funny and annoying; but his fans are loyal and his eccentricities (for the most part) make us laugh. The same can be said for writer/director Jared Hess, who burst into the mainstream with the odd but intriguing Napoleon Dynamite. The fact of the matter is that with either of these two, you either love them or you hate them; but if you love them, you really love them. So wouldn’t it make sense to combine the talents of two such people in order to make a summer release comedy that will draw huge crowds and possibly a large following? If you answered ‘yes,’ then apparently you are on the same page as the folks at Paramount Pictures.
And this is the premise upon which the film Nacho Libre was made, the awesome drawing power of Jack Black and Jared Hess. Libre is the story of a jaded Mexican priest (Black) who dreams of becoming a famous luchador, or wrestler, in order to earn the respect he feels that those around him have never given him. Unfortunately for him, he is stuck in the kitchen of the monastery, cooking slop for all of the little orphans who live there and is told that wrestling is a sin. Of course in the world of slightly predictable plot-lines, we know that he will not just buckle under the guise of being sinful, but he will rise up to become a luchador and ultimately fight in order to make money that will help provide for a better life for the orphans. A pretty simple plot, I know, but that is what we have come to love from Jared Hess; a simple plot and a very unique attention to detail.
That brings me to the first thing that I enjoyed about Nacho Libre; the fact that it is downright hysterical. In order to get a good frame of reference, you have to have seen (and liked) Napoleon Dynamite. That said, think of Nacho Libre as being similar to Napoleon Dynamite, but with more of a point. Hess was able to carry over all of the things that I loved about Napoleon into this film without making it so similar that I lost interest. The awkward interactions between the male lead and the female love interest we there. The excessively tacky wardrobes were there as well. There was even room in Nacho for the odd, socially uncoordinated Hispanic sidekick, played out in this film by the very expressive H©ctor Jim©nez. Jim©nez delivers a character that is the lovable, peaceful opposite to Black’s energetic Nacho; a relationship that creates moments of unpredictable and uncontrollable laughter for the audience.
Which points to something else that was very enjoyable about Nacho Libre; the fact that when you break it down, it is just plain funny. The cheesy Spanish accent that Jack Black puts on is enough to make you laugh, but there is plenty more to this film. One of the most humorous points of the movie is something that shows off director Hess’ attention to detail, and that is the amazing comedic timing shown throughout the film. There exist those elements that are on purpose quirks, such as the way someone walks or Jack Black showing off his ability to flex his gluteus maximus muscle. Instead of just trying to hold us over until the next big punch line or the next big moment of physical comedy, Hess uses every moment of this film to keep us laughing.
And unfortunately it is those hilarious oddities that are the only shortfall of a movie like this. Unless you find eating corn on a stick or riding a motorcycle with a basket on the front of it funny, then you may not like Nacho Libre. This film, just like Napoleon Dynamite before it, will have a very targeted audience. There are some viewers who just won’t be able to wrap their minds around why everyone around them is laughing so hard they are about to have an accident, and I guess that is okay. In its essence, this flick is not for everyone, but for those who get it, it works. So needless to say, if you are a fan of Jack Black or you enjoyed Napoleon Dynamite, then you absolutely should not miss this film. For the rest of you, don’t be afraid to take a chance on this odd duo of Black and Hess, you might find yourself laughing a little harder than you thought you would.