Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
orphans in the Bible
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
If God made everything, who made God? Answer
What does God say? Answer
Is Jesus Christ God? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What advice do you have for new and growing Christians? Answer
How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer
|Featuring:||Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jimenez, Richard Montoya, Peter Stormare|
|Producer:||Jack Black, Ricardo Del Río, David Klawans, Steve Nicolaides, Julia Pistor, Damon Ross, Mike White|
With the long-running popularity of “Napoleon Dynamite”, director Jared Hess did not waste time moving into his next project Nacho Libre. Once again, Hess co-wrote the film with his wife, Jerusha, while also teaming up with The School of Rock screenwriter, Mike White. Also joining the ranks of this comedy team from “The School of Rock” is actor Jack Black playing the lead role of Nacho.
Set in modern day Mexico, Nacho (Jack Black) is a friar at a local orphanage who works in the kitchen preparing meals for the children. Frustrated that there is not enough money to buy better food for the kids, Nacho decides to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a luchador (wrestler) and perform professionally with the Lucha libre. With no support from the church for his desires to wrestle and having no success in the ring, Nacho finds himself in his own “wilderness” until he can reconcile his two passions and redeem the problems he set out to solve.
Much like “Napoleon Dynamite”, this film is extraordinarily clean for a mainstream movie. There wasn’t any foul language and no real sexual content. The film is more of a collaborative effort than Hess’s previous film so perhaps that added to a couple rougher moments. One of these moments in particular is when a thug is poked in the eye with a piece of fried corn on the cob. It is set up as a humorous moment, but it is also an unexpected and unnerving incident as well.
There are some similarities between “Nacho Libre” and “Napoleon Dynamite”—trademarks that these films have been made by the same director. One such element is the fact that the main character has a somewhat familiar, yet humorous name, and is a person who does not quite fit in. This time, however, our protagonist is not an all-out nerd, but a prominent “man of God.” Nacho is a man who is committed to God and to helping others but also feels rejected by the more pious religious leaders. In one line, Nacho says, “These people don’t think that I know a butt-load of crap about the Gospel—but I do.” While he may not be as fine-tuned as other friars, the point is made that his heart is in the right place.
Since our main hero is a friar, it is easy to see how the idea of faith and good works could be such a part of the story. And it is. Nacho’s mission is ultimately to do something unselfish and help feed needy orphans. To contrast this, Nacho teams up with a scrawny vagabond, Esqueleto (Hector Jiminez) who claims to be a “man of science.” Throughout most of the story Esqueleto does not have any kind of faith, but Nacho feels there is a problem with that. At one point, Nacho forces him to get baptized. In other moments, Nacho recognizes that the reason they are not more successful in the ring is because they have not prayed.
I would not say there is any kind of conversion that takes place in any of the characters, however, the idea of faith is consistently presented as something positive. Along with this, prayer is also an aspect of the story and has something to do with helping the good guys in the end.
Another aspect that is similar to “Napoleon Dynamite” is the simple, pure love story that threads throughout the entire film. Nacho is obviously in love with Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Raguera), but because they are both committed to church service, they cannot be any more involved than sitting and eating a piece of toast together. Still, the romance is cute, and is a nice refreshment from all of the trashy ways romantic relationships can be treated in film.
Jack Black and some of the other actors certainly ham up their performances for this film. It seems the over-the-top nature of the movie calls for that, but it is quite different from the subtlety that existed in “Napoleon Dynamite”. With such a big personality as Black, it seems inevitable that the style of humor would change when compared to an unknown (at the time) Jon Heder playing the lead. Black is still very funny doing what he does best, but don’t expect the more laid back, offbeat approach to the material.
The collaboration between Hess and White seems all right, but it also felt a little compromised in its vision. The movie is funny and does have some unique, comically poignant moments. Although they are a little more rounded out than “Napoleon Dynamite,” there is still a lot of entertainment to be found here.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None