Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nacho Libre

Nacho Libre is pretty much the movie you expect it to be. Do you expect a fun, light-hearted romp with plenty of Jack Black antics? Then that's what you'll get. Do you expect a stupid, puerile movie with more fart jokes than substance? Then that's what you'll get. Do you expect an epic, Oscar-worthy period piece about two Mexican lovers separated by space and time? Then you're probably seriously misled.

Jack Black plays the titular Nacho--short for Ignacio--and, as it's a PG movie, he's seriously toned down. He's still Jack, but with about one-third the caffeine. His character, Nacho, is a priest/monk/friar at a monastery in Nowheresville, Mexico. It's clear early on that he's at the bottom of the monk pecking order, as he's forced to take on the tasks no one else wants, like--as he says--"cooking duty, and dead guy duty." It's also clear early on that he's not totally into his priestly duties; instead, he longs to become a professional wrestler. This is a problem, of course, because wrestling is considered a sin.

Nevertheless, when Nacho learns of a wrestling opportunity where the winner takes home 200 pesos, he decides to try it out--incognito. He enlists the help of a local street rat named Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez, who is hilariously hideous in his role), and the two form a tag team. They lose consistently, of course, but still get paid because audiences come to see them. So Nacho continues to lead his double life--humble priest by day, terrible wrestler by night--even while trying to win the favor of Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera), a smoking-hot nun (really!).

This leads down a familiar path as our hero is eventually found out, hits his lowest of lows, but bounces back for his final triumph, in which he spectacularly defeats the top wrestler in the region and simultaneously convinces his order--particularly Sister Encarnación--that wrestling doesn't have to be sinful.

"That's all well and good," you say, "but is it funny?" Yeah, it is. It's not hilarious, but it's amusing enough. Jack Black and Héctor Jiménez are each delightfully hapless in their own special way, and the movie definitely trades on the fact that you're not supposed to take it even remotely seriously.

But, here's the thing: it's PG. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but it gives you a hint as to what audiences it's being directed at: primarily males between the ages of 9 and 12. If you're one of those people, by all means, run out and rent this movie. If you're anyone else, well, it's a harmless use of 90 minutes, so I wouldn't say you should necessarily avoid it. But unless you're a Jack Black worshiper who needs to see each and every one of his works, Nacho Libre is a movie you could probably take a pass on.

Here's how the rating calculus for this movie works: it starts out at a -5. Now, on your own, rate Jack Black from -22 to 22, and then add that number to the -5. Personally, I rate Jack about an 11, so I'd give this movie a 6. If you think Jack's a 22, you'd probably give the movie a 17; if you think he's a -10, you'd probably give it a -15. In any case, you can use this formula to decide whether Nacho Libre is worth a rental for you.

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