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Nacho Libre’ fails to satiate comedic appetites

Sean Sweany | Sunday, November 5, 2006

Jack Black. The director of “Napoleon Dynamite.” So read the promotional posters for this past summer’s hopefully-hit comedy “Nacho Libre.” It seemed certain that the pairing of this comedic duo would mean major box office success, especially with previews showing a mustached Jack Black wearing spandex and a cape crooning, “Nachooooooooo” to a group of Mexican school children.

Unfortunately, “Nacho Libre,” now out on DVD, did not live up to these expectations and died a quick death in theaters shortly after its release. In spite of a major marketing campaign for the Paramount DVD, expect the disc to fade quickly from the spotlight and be on sale for less than $10 fairly soon.

“Nacho Libre” stars Black (“School of Rock”) as Nacho, a young man raised in a monastery in Mexico who goes on to work there as a cook. Inspired by a zeal for wrestling, he dons a mask and tights to compete as a Luchador, or Mexican wrestler, in a tournament in order to win money for the children in his monastery.

Nacho teams with a street urchin named Esqueleto (Hector Jiménéz) to win the money while he personally tries to win the favor of Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera). The rest of the film follows the exploits of the two wrestlers towards their goals in a fashion much like that of “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Much of the problem with “Nacho Libre” stems from its similarity to Hess’s first film. “Napoleon Dynamite” achieved its great success because John Heder was the perfect actor to play Napoleon. Hess tries to use Jack Black in the same way, but Black is a different type of actor.

Black’s fame stems from his band, Tenacious D, and his ability to use “in-your-face” humor with perfect timing and effect. Trying to get Black to try the more subtle, off-beat humor found in “Napoleon Dynamite” works only so far. Several moments are quite funny, but Black shows much of his true, brazen self here, unlike in the rest of the movie.

Black’s talent is clear, but the writing does not allow him to fully utilize his comedic ability in the film. Ana de la Reguera and Hector Jiménéz display some talent here, but they are very young actors who cannot yet hold their own in a major motion picture.

Another problem with “Nacho Libre” lies in the fact that Nickelodeon Films played a major role in its development, production and promotion. Typically known as a child-oriented film company, this moniker may have prevented creative decisions from being made that could have aided the comedy with more adult humor. As it turned out, “Nacho Libre” struggled to find an audience with both children and adults. By doing so, it did not live up to expectations at the box office.

The DVD features a sparse collection of extras mostly trying to use Jack Black as a vehicle for humor. Some, including a spot where Jack Black sings songs from the film and a funny commercial for Nacho Libre action figures, are enjoyable, but most are a waste of time.

In trying to make another cult classic movie with a bigger budget and bigger stars, Jared Hess missed the mark. What resulted from a movie with much potential for hilarity was a boring piece that, like a bad joke, tried too hard to be funny and fell flat on its face.