March 5, 2006
Nacho Libre (2006)
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling
Starring: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez
Jack Black is a funny man, despite what some may say. He’s not to all tastes, but no comedian is. What proves that he is a funny man is that he carved up dramatic lines in Peter Jackson’s King Kong so badly that he must be a very funny man or he wouldn’t be working as an actor.
Therein lies the problem with Nacho Libre, and ultimately the problem with the concept of the wrestling movie as understood in Hollywood. Instead of taking a real-life, truly heroic story such as that of Fray Tormenta’s and turning it into an inspirational film that shows how serious and important wrestling can be to a great many people, the producers, directors, actors, and everyone involved decide that if it’s a wrestling movie, it has to be a comedy.
Worse than that, it has to be a Jack Black comedy. Let me explain what I mean by “worse”. I think that Nacho Libre is funny, but it’s a one-track kind of funny. It will only be funny if you appreciate Black delivering lines in a melding of Ricardo Montalban and Antonio Banderas’ accents that make unfunny lines at least sound humourous. In other words, the enjoyment of the film rests exclusively on the enjoyment of the lead actor's performance.
Of course this isn’t an unusual tactic – it’s a star-driven vehicle, as they say in Hollywood. The problem is that this is a wrestling movie, and wrestling fans are touchy when it comes to outsiders invading their material and taking it to the mainstream. They have been waiting a long time for the ultimate wrestling movie, and Nacho Libre may have had a chance if it hadn’t gone for the easy route of, as Chris Farley so perfectly described, “Fatty Fall Down” comedy.
The DVD release comes with a few worthwhile extras, including a rare peek at Jack Black’s shyness at admitting he feels silly having people watch him watch his own acting. It’s not humility, it’s that he feels silly at laughing at his own jokes so much (it’s okay Jack, I know I make myself laugh). There are deleted and extended scenes that are easy to see why they got cut – including a lengthy and labour-intensive scene with Nacho and Stephen trying to enlist the help of Peter Stormare’s Gypsy character by dressing Nacho in a dress made of doves. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. A disappointment awaits you in the running commentary, as it amounts to the director, writer, and star watching the movie and laughing at a few in-jokes. It feels very unwelcoming to be listening to them. The finest piece available is a collection of commercials advertising Nacho Libre action figures. As far as I can tell, these are not really available (although McFarlane toys has a line of figurines from the movie), but the commercials are a treat.
NACHO LIBRE STORIES
Dave Hillhouse is a screenwriter and teacher, and can be emailed at email@example.com -- SLAM! Wrestling.