June 27, 2006 > Nacho Libre
Directed by Jared Hess
by Jeremy Inman
In the tradition of his last film, Napoleon Dynamite, director Jared Hess has once again produced a quirky, delightfully fun comedy without resorting to inappropriate language or disgustingly vulgar humor. This time, unlike Napoleon, which was cast with relative unknowns, Nacho Libre was given an injection of shining star power in the form of comedic powerhouse, Jack Black. Nacho's script teams Black with his partner in Black & White, writer Mike White who scripted School of Rock.
Nacho Libre tells the story of Ignacio, a young orphan who grows into a monk and the cook for the orphanage where he grew up. Ignacio has always been fascinated by the world of the luchadors, Mexican wrestlers. Unable to avoid his obsession, Ignacio begins moonlighting as a luchador under the alias Nacho, where he begins to earn money which he puts to use buying better ingredients for the kitchen at the orphanage. The problem? The church frowns upon wrestling, calling the luchadors false idols. Soon Ignacio begins to lose sight of his duties, as he is sucked further into the glamorous world of the luchador. Throughout the film, he wrestles a barrage of masked musclemen in the ring while also struggling mightily with the conflict of his values as a monk and cook for the orphanage.
Nacho Libre takes a step closer than Napoleon Dynamite to being a mainstream comedy. This isn't to say that Hess has abandoned the humorous awkwardness of his previous film. His characters are as bizarre and loveable as before.
Hess's directorial style is still helter-skelter and random. However, he moves Nacho a step closer to mainstream with a more concise narrative. A lot of viewers complained that even though it was funny, nothing really happened in Napoleon; its battles weren't necessarily external ones. They happened almost imperceptibly within their growing characters. In Nacho, not only does the hero physically fight his way to victory, but he has slightly more tangible personal problems to come to terms with as well. He has to fight to find meaning in his life with the orphanage, where he is seemingly not valued. He must struggle with the conflicts that arise from his desire to wrestle even though the teachings of his church tell him that it's wrong. Lastly, he must find something to fight for that is greater than just the glory of victory in the ring.
Nacho teams a writer who understands an actor's comedic strengths, mixes in Hess's refreshingly peculiar directorial style, and stars the man himself, Jack Black, whose electrifying comedic presence is impossible to deny. The result is a cinematic breath of fresh air - a completely original film, far from mainstream, that delivers a body slam to all the standard conventions of comedies today by staying appropriate for families with children of all ages, and hilarious for everybody.