Ana de la Reguera
Take some of the humour from Napoleon Dynamite and some from School Of Rock, and you get Nacho Libre. That’s really all you need to know, but in the interests of film reviewing tradition I’ll throw in some plot details as well.
The action takes place in Mexico, where a priest named Ignacio (Jack Black) works in an orphanage as a cook. It’s refried beans every day (the Mexican equivalent of gruel) and Ignacio, or ‘Nacho’ wishes he could serve the orphans something more tasty – one kid even asks for salad, which means he must be pretty desperate.
Nacho’s closet hobby is watching Mexican wrestling. As someone who is constantly looked down on by the other priests, he longs for the glory and fame that the ‘luchadors’ (masked wrestlers) get. When a thief steals the orphans’ tortilla chips, the young priest finds him and persuades him to become his wrestling partner. After some Napoleon Dynamite-style shots of Nacho stealing random household materials to make his costume, Nacho Libre is born.
The film has its share of funny bits. The wrestling scenes have a definite Jackass appeal, with Jack Black bulging out of his homemade costume and his tall, skinny partner Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez) screeching horrendously. Squelches, farts and crunches abound.
Anyone who’s ever been to Latin America will titter with recognition at the over-long religious names (Sister Encarnacion del Sierra del Madre de Dios…or something) and Nacho’s love song to the gorgeous nun Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera, or Penelope Cruz’s doppelganger). It’s even hard to get tired of Black saying ‘stretchy pants’ in his lame Mexican accent.
Themes of empty religion versus genuine faith come in, as well as the old ‘finding your niche in life’ chestnut. There are even plenty of heartwarming moments when it becomes clear that Nacho is pursuing his wrestling ambitions ‘all for the orphans’.
So the movie is a strange mix of off-the-wall humour, farce, and pathos. It won’t appeal to everyone, and it definitely won’t win any Oscars. But if you find Jack Black even halfway funny, there are worse things you could do with your evening.