292 – Nacho Libre

Jack Black is a Mexican friar who secretly is a masked wrestler, or luchador. He has the hots for a cute, pious nun and wants to help all the little orphans at his church. It’s as awful as it sounds.

Ignacio (Black), caught as a child by the brothers stealing materials for a wrestling costume, has worked at the church his entire life as the cook, and he’s not terribly good – his specialty appears to be nachos – and he yearns to live free, to express himself, to discover wonderful things. No, wait… he doesn’t yearn to do those things. He just wants to wrestle.

But wait! The new nun, Sister Encarnacion (the beautiful Ana de la Reguera) doesn’t like wrestling. It is violent and bad and stuff, she claims. So Ignacio doesn’t mention to her that he has donned tights and a mask and wrestles on the weekends with a partner, Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez), a skeletal thief. The two make quite the pair, and they’re not very good at wrestling, much like Esqueleto and thieving or Ignacio and cooking.

Black probably should have been, pardon the pun, the saving grace of the film, but he’s poorly cast and completely unfunny. There’s hardly a laugh to be had; what chuckles one gets come from the antics of the seldom-seen orphans, chiefly Chancho. It’s not as if Black isn’t typically funny, that he’s some sort of Serious Actor who hardly ever does funny. He’s Jack Black! He’s pretty much nothing but funny. Except here, where’s he’s everything but; he’s painful to watch at times.

But he’s not helped by a meandering film, either. With no belly laughs, one would think the emphasis would be on sentimentality with a dash of light humor. Only you hardly ever get any of that, either, except at the very end with a predictable ending. It’s so wildly predictable that you could guess it RIGHT NOW. Without having seen the movie. If this were a parody of fighter films, like Hot Shots was of fighter-pilot movies, then the deadpan deliveries might make some sense – if, of course, they were accompanied by actual jokes, even throwaway lines.

Otherwise, one might make the mistake of thinking the movie was set in a more-melodramatic period, where people left their lovers by fog-dampened train and the star quarterback married his sweetheart right after scoring eleventy-five points against Big Mean Old Jerks U in the homecoming game. But it’s not that, either; everyone, save perhaps the radiant de la Reguera, seems listless, sleepwalking through a dull pseudocomedy that shouldn’t be mentioned again.

Heck, they don’t even get the wrestling part of things right, as Ignacio (wrestling as Nacho) and his various opponents do all sorts of things that would be forbidden in a true luchador match, such as a pinfall outside the ring, the removal of a mask, and so forth. I guess
the gang behind this one felt they needed to include more American wrestling features, you know, to sex it up a little.

About the only saving grace is de la Reguera, who, although she’s given nothing with which to work, does manage to come out of it looking fine; I’m sure she’ll be able to use her role as a springboard to better things, although if I were her I’d put “Was in Jack Black film” on my resume and hope no one asks questions.

*1/2

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