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Nacho Libre - Review

Jack Black in Nacho Libre

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IF THE idea of seeing Jack Black in stretchy pants strikes you as funny, then you’re halfway to enjoying Nacho Libre immensely. But while this wrestling comedy does manage to land plenty of blows to the laughter bone, it’s not quite the laugh-out-loud riot it could have been.

Based around the world of Lucha Libre – Mexico’s equivalent of the WWF – the film finds Black as Nacho, a long-suffering missionary who is forced to work as a cook for the orphan children in the monastery he grew up in.

Tired of receiving poor ingredients, Nacho dreams of a life in wrestling and eventually comes to lead a double-life as a masked luchador who plans to use his prize money to get the children better meals. In so doing, he also hopes to impress Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera).

But far from being a brilliant fighter, Nacho consistently finds his encounters in the ring to be bruising, humiliating experiences despite the best efforts of himself and his wafer-thin tag partner, Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez).

Given the creative talents behind Nacho Libre, audiences may well have been expecting something a little more hilarious. Aside from the obvious talents of Black, the story was penned by School of Rock writer, Mike White, and benefits from the offbeat humour of director Jared (Napoloeon Dynamite) Hess.

But even though audiences will wear a near-constant grin for the entire 90-minute running time, they may find the proper belly laughs in short supply.

Much of this is due to the film’s slow middle section, in which Nacho goes off in search of enlightenment and attempts to better himself physically.

But it’s also because it’s a one-joke concept that eventually resorts to some fairly obvious – and toilet-based – humour to try and stretch things out. The sound of Black farting once may be funny, but three or four times later it becomes a little puerile.

That said, the wrestling scenes are genuinely funny and quite often painful to watch as Nacho and Esqueleto find themselves at the mercy of all manner of real-life luchadores, including the undefeated Ramses (Cesar Gonzalez) and a screaming pair of midgets (Filliberto Estrella Calderon and Gerson Virgen Lopez) who have to be seen to be believed!

And Black is also on form, throwing himself into proceedings with relish and transforming some otherwise mundane material into something far better. Whether attempting to impress Sister Encarnacion, or serving up slop to his children and superiors, the actor ensures that Nacho remains an inspired comic creation.

The supporting cast is also good value, benefiting from the director’s choice to pick from the Mexican community. Jimenez is particularly funny as Black’s reluctant partner, Esqueleto, while popular Mexican actress de la Reguera is suitably sweet and angelic as the object of Nacho’s affections (witness their toast-eating scene together).

Taken as a whole, Nacho Libre isn’t the offbeat romp its trailer suggests but it will succeed in wrestling a fair few chuckles from you.

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Certificate: 12A
Running time: 92mins