Almost Too Funny
While watching one of the wrestling scenes in Nacho Libre, I laughed so hard I accidentally spit out my chewing gum. Have you ever tried to find a wad of gum in a dark theater, especially when you don’t want to miss anything happening on screen? I felt all around my lap and on the chair arms but couldn’t locate my gum. Oh well, I thought to myself, it probably fell to the floor and will end up on someone’s shoe. Engrossed in Jack Black’s (School of Rock) hilarious antics, I forgot all about the incident. Later, upon entering our car after the movie, I discovered something sticky all over my purse, wristwatch and slacks. It took half a bottle of rubbing alcohol and an entire hour to clean up the mess.
Fortunately, Nacho Libre was worth all the trouble. Granted, an appreciation of off-beat humor is probably necessary in order to enjoy the misadventures of Ignacio (Black), a lowly monk who disguises himself as a wrestler named Nacho and uses the money he earns to buy better food for orphans. Admiration for funnyman Jack Black’s brand of comedy also helps. (The mere thought of Black in tights is enough to set me laughing again.)
Black’s physical humor, poses and grimaces are showcased to the max here as his character struggles with ambition versus concern for the orphans, and almost everything pays off. Even during the film’s slow moments, the camera lingers on Black’s expressive face or on other interesting characters -- especially Nacho’s equally geeky wrestling partner (Héctor Jiménez), a lovely nun (Ana de la Reguera) and those befuddled orphans -- in a way that holds our rapt attention.
Danny Elfman’s terrific music also adds considerably to the movie by creating just the right tone for a story set in Mexico. As the opening titles roll, the amusing strains of “I Am, I Am a Religious Man” promise viewers entertaining things to come, and we are not disappointed.
Director and co-writer (with wife Jerusha) Jared Hess brings the same quirky sensitivity he displayed in Napoleon Dynamite to his work on Nacho Libre. Both movies are fresh, funny and have a big heart. Hess makes it a joy to cheer for previously unsung heroes like Napoleon and Ignacio. Ole!
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention that Nacho Libre taught me something very important: Never chew gum during a Jack Black movie.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG” for some rough action and crude humor including dialogue.)