Nacho Libre

In the movie of the same name Barton Fink is a New York playwright in Hollywood trying to write a wrestling b-movie. He has writers’ block. Despite his determination to imbue a hackneys format with universal truths about the common man, he spends most of the time staring as a sheet of paper with only the words

A LARGE MAN IN TIGHTS

typed on it. When, later, he calls upon Judy Davis (in typical Coens never-so-gorgeous mode) to help him with the treatment he has to come up with for the Jack Warner-esque studio head she explains to him the formula for the genre.

…simply morality tales. There’s a good wrestler, and a bad wrestler whom he confronts at the end. In between, the good wrestler has a love interest or a child he has to protect.

Nacho Libre doesn’t just tick all the boxes in there but it has a love interest and a child to protect (in fact a whole orphanage full of the little tykes). Jack Black‘s young prelate uses his secret love for mexican wrestling* (or Lucha Libre) to feed the kids and to try and win the heart of Ana de la Reguera (who just happens to be a nun).

And, of course, central to all of this is just how funny you find Black and his hyper-kinetic gurning. I, for one, don’t really mind him. I thought he was brilliant in Bob Roberts (who you calling a pretentious?) but was nowhere near as bowled over by him in High Fidelity as others seemed to be. Although, probably what you really want to be comparing this too is the surprisingly excellent School Of Rock. Mainly to highlight what’s lacking here. In that film he’s a scoundrel, but in addition to teaching the school kids to loosen up and rock, they teach him just as much. This is the basic principle of most of these simple morality tales these days. But Nacho; the kids already love him (and wrestling), and he remains just as vane as at the end as the start. There’s no ulterior motive other than a hard life and always dreaming. We can’t begrudge this man anything. He’s just so nice. But, then we don’t really care that much about his future either.

There’s one of the worst recurrent fart jokes in a movie ever. How can you have constant references to flatulence in a film where people are constantly wrapping their legs round others’ necks and not have some great fart gags?

Weirdly the film is written and directed by Jared Hess indie-as-fuck architect of overrated ubergeek rubbish Napoleon Dynamite. So we get a strangely quirky style for this kind of thing. For a change, he has actually used some genuine mexican actors to people the movie. The lovely De la Reguera is apparently a big telenovela star in Latin America. And, I have no idea who Hector Jimenez is but he manages some nice touches as his skinny tag-team partner. Despite the material. There’s a little too much of the humour in the film based purely around the fact that there’s an awful lot of poverty in Mexico. A few moments really did jar with me.

But let’s give Hess some credibecausese he sticks a little touch at the end to take the edge off the happy-ending. Could this be his nod the Finkian truth? Or is it just included cynically so the adults will leave with a sense of there having been so much more to the film than there really was?

Am I being too analytical/po-faced about what is essentially a kids film (actually produced by Nickelodeon)? Oh, undoubtedly so. I just can’t help but think that they deserve better. So, it’s no School Of Rock, but if the idea of seeing a Black in stretchy pants being hurled around the place by midgets strikes you as funny this is the film for you. TBH, if it doesn’t then you’re more po-faced than me.

* Being from a working class west oScotlandnd background, I grew up (in the 70s) with many relatives (mainly female) completely obsessed with wrestling. Y’know the Big Daddy/Kendo Nagasaki type. But, this is nothing compared to the cultural importance of wrestling in Mexico. It’s more like football round here. And, the big showbiz WWF version owes it’existencece to the immigrants to the states from across the border. Culturally, it’s infinitely more fascinatinthatht – say – Sumo. But, I don’t really have the time or inclination to get really stuck into it. I just really wanted to recommend Jaime Hernandez‘s books for an interesting un-wacky take on the whole scene.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

24 August 2006 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Film

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