Nacho Libre is another dollop of pure whimsy from Jerod and Jerusha Hess. Many people, even fans of their first film, Napoleon Dynamite, have been saying that this movie is ‘unfunny.’ To the charges of ‘unfunny’ I say: unfair.
Funny is in the eye of the beholder, and this beholder’s eye saw a great deal of hilarity. From the picture-book, Wesandersonish images to the Fellini-esque faces of the bit characters to the (more traditionally funny) energetic physical performance of Jack Black — Nacho Libre creates an oddball Mexico that is, like a chili’d mango, at turns spicy and sweet.
I must have the acquired taste. When I was a kid, I’d dress up like the WWF (now WWE) wrestlers and put all the moves on my younger brother. (Recommendation: do not try Jake the Snake’s patented DDT at home.) I can’t speak to the accuracy of the portrayal of Mexican wrestling — Lucha Libre — in the movie, but the appeal of Professional Wrestling is absolutely spot on.
If Nacho Libre has a weak spot, it is that…
The joy, then, is in the little moments: Nacho triumphantly distributing salads, the sound of crunching toast, the disfigurement of a porcelain doll, the announcer mistakenly calling ‘The Skeleton’ the ‘The Snail’ (it’s funny in Spanish). The climactic shot of Nacho in flight is both absurd and transcendently beautiful. You will not find such a combination in recent acclaimed comedies Wedding Crashers or The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Perhaps the most damaging criticism is that the trailer was as good as the movie. This may be true on some level, but I like Nacho’s world so much, I’d rather spend two hour there than two minutes.