Mighty Mexican wrestling king and priest, Jack Black, takes Nacho Libre by storm. What a distressing, stench-clad time the 2000s were. Young enough to feel fond nostalgia for these features, old enough to now know better. Strangle the problem, affix reason to the mind and charge directly for this Jared Hess-directed feature. Expect nothing less from a concept produced by Nickelodeon Movies. Ironically this isn’t’ exactly a film for that channel, it is a bit risqué in all the worst places. Monasteries are not typically a place for comedy, nor are they places to put Jack Black. But Nacho Libre takes its chances and does both.
Predicting jokes is not a sign of good comedy. It is a sign instead of redundancy in the face of exceptionalism. Nacho Libre has a build-up that ruins the punchline and vice versa. Spending too long with the build-up of a woman presumed dead, the pay-off is that she is still alive. Keen-eyed audiences will no doubt pick up on that because Hess works at a snail’s pace to deliver this hit and miss. He cannot get the culture of Mexican wrestling much better. Beyond the relatively simple message of luchador heroes and the mask being more important than the man, Nacho Libre is stagnant in both its representation of wrestling heroes and its uncomfortable desire to put Jack Black into the leading role of Nacho, an eponymous idiot.
It is not as though Hess’ work has done well beyond its contemporary stance. Napoleon Dynamite is a hectic and shoddy comedy that relies on the degeneracy of an unlikeable lead. Nacho Libre does the exact same and its comedy is cheap. Whether the joke is that a fat man wishes to wrestle or a ludicrous costume is afforded to him is unknowable. Hess doesn’t know either. Elbow drops here, wrestling matches there and an insufferably routine core of emotions relay the rise and rise of a man who wishes to wrestle, not serve in the kitchens of a monastery. Black is afforded the role of a lifetime. He would just have to struggle through Nacho Libre to get to such a role later in his career. Cheap and redundant comedy. No more should be expected, no less can be afforded to the mid-2000s. A godless wasteland that keeps itself keen in the church pews of the Lord for the sake of narrative.
Redundant at best, Nacho Libre is a dull comedy that relies on all the tried and tired tropes of American comedy. It is no better or worse than Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and most of that will come from the lack of nostalgia felt for new viewers. Even then, the wrestling-based story has little to offer as either a comedy or an action-packed wrestling feature. All the slapstick relies on pain to the leading man. There are only so many pratfalls Black can take before the laughter dries up and the narrative has to try and take hold. Getting a footing on the narrative is something Hess cannot do, for his film is dense and unrelatable, while also championing the desires of dreams coming true. It is the worst of both scenarios, and there is nothing worse than that.