Nacho Libre — movie review — screener!
Posted on June 14, 2006 by Kris Nelson
Nachooooo! If you loved Napoleon Dynamite, you’ve probably been waiting forever for Nacho Libre‘s premiere. Written and directed by Jared Hess of ND, Nacho shares all the quirks of it’s predecessor with the same offbeat antics of a fantastic duo and upbeat message of “do the right thing”. Only in a Jared Hess film would two unattractive social rejects make everyone smile and cheer. Only in a Jared Hess film would a rotund glam-wrestler moonlighting monk make a pretty nun rethink her vows. And he does it with tokens of affection Hess style as well, like blowing tortilla chip crumbs all over her salad and sucking in his butt cheeks in disco pants to show off his newfound wealth and, uhm, stunning physique. And he does it so well.
Jack Black is the man of the cloth who renounces his faith just a little bit to seek fame and fortune as a luchador, or Mexican full-body-contact wrestler. Another Hess favorite is his storybook opening credits, which show young Nacho incessantly sketching his dream costume and perfecting his signature moves and often getting into trouble for it. Fast-forward to a thirty-something Nacho with the same aspirations and mindset. Confined to play Iron Chef with limited ingredients, he tries his best to be a beacon to the dozen or so orphans he oversees with a geriatric biblical brother and a vindictive one with a Jon Lovitz comb-over and “reverse Hitler” mustache (with only the ends intact and the middle part shaven). When the aforementioned nun and Penelope Cruz look-alike, Sister Encarnación, enters their lives as the new teacher, the Jon Lovitz monk goes out of his way to belittle Nacho, going so far as to cast him out. Nacho, in an empowered momentum, rushes out to the “city” to live out his dream.. to become a famous luchador!
With the help of a street-savvy bum who is thankfully feisty enough to fight and hungry enough to be manipulated into fighting for money, Nacho is well on his way. Thankfully he also picked a bum who was Dolce & Gabbana in a former life, well, if Dolce &/or Gabbana were dead, but I mean he’s an awesome male seamstress (isn’t that horrible that there are no masculine words for “a guy that sews well” and oops I just answered my own question there, nevermind). Anyway, Nacho’s new partner, dubbed “Esqueleto” (skeleton), is both his new friend and personal humility meter. He makes no effort to pad his theory of attributing their zero-win record to his partner’s girth, and that he doesn’t believe in God, he believes in sciiience, which he delivers with a thick lispy accent (but nowhere near as thick as ND‘s sidekick Pedro) designed for laughs. Meanwhile, Nacho’s ego is both bursting and bruising, as he is given a reasonable stipend after each match simply because the audience loves to watch him take a beating. He uses the money to purchase food for the orphans and some stretchy leisure-wear and white leather ankle boots to impress the ladies. He feels stronger and more confident than ever before! He battles furry midgets (pictured above), twins, even women in the ring! He even climbs to the top of a rocky cliff to suck down some super gross eagle egg yolk privy to a tipsy gypsy’s victory premonition. He believes his glory day is approaching.. soon.. soon.. but then everything falls apart. Then Nacho realizes what he must do. Like any movie hero he must search deep within his heart to renounce his selfishness. He must rise to the occasion not for his own glory or fame, but for the orphans.
What made Napoleon Dynamite an instant cheesy cult classic was the main character’s dorky lovability and willingness to step up and look even dorkier for the sake of someone else’s salvation. It doesn’t matter what color or shape or size of the hero, he has the same heart in every country. To those who proclaim that this is a racist movie, I do believe it’s meant to be an exploitation over-the-top comedy. I mean, there are plenty of fat, fart, and faith jokes too. I ask those people to name a recent mainstream American film where a minority (that’s not African American or Jewish) or a minority’s culture is expressed throughout the entire film with a positive demeanor and message, and doesn’t star Al Pacino in it. I ask them if only white people are allowed happy endings? Of course not! Nacho Libre will make you laugh and smile and you shouldn’t feel guilty for that. Besides, everyone likes Nachos with extra cheese!
Note from Chris: Regarding the whole racist/non-racist debate, racist films have a concerted effort to dehumanize or marginalize the efforts of a specific culture. Examples of such treatments would include the ooga-booga natives in the original King Kong, and the “oh man these foreigners are so f’n boring/lame” attitude of Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Nacho Libre make no such effort. The characters, though Latino and used for comedic effect, are portrayed in an endearing fashion. You identify and root for them, laughing at the situations they encounter rather than laughing at their otherness. For those who are outraged at the politically incorrect antics in the ring, I recommend you see some of the Mexican Santo films from which this movie draws heavily. Those often feature masked wrestlers running about town, in wrestling garb, fighting everyone from evil wrestlers to mad scientists and their midget henchmen.
The screening we attended was in San Jose, with an audience comprised of roughly 50% Latinos. If anyone thought the film racist we would have heard something. Rather, as the credits rolled, the audience cheered. Take that for what you will.
Nacho Libre opens in theatres June 16, 2006.
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