June 14th, 2006 David Walker | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

Tapped Out

Mexican wrestling comedy Nacho Libre confuses stupid with funny.

     
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There is a scene in Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles where a group of cowboys sitting around a campfire start farting. From a purely historical standpoint, it was one of the first cinematic fart jokes, and, in its time, it was funny. But fart jokes have become commonplace now in comedies—the modern equivalent of a pie in the face or a spit-take—and any film that relies on farts for laughs is blowing in the wind. Nacho Libre, the new comedy starring Jack Black and directed by Napoleon Dynamite's Jared Hess, has several farts, which should let you know the sad state of affairs the film has in store.

Black stars as Nacho, a priest at a Mexican orphanage who has dreamed his whole life of being a great luchador, a masked, high-flying Mexican wrestler. Unfortunately, Nacho's life is one of service to God and serving up disgusting gruel to sad-faced orphans. That is, until he decides to actually become a wrestler in order to raise money to help the orphans. With the help of a crazy homeless man (Héctor Jiménez), whom he earlier fought with over a bag of tortilla chips, Nacho dons a mask and becomes a wrestler.

There are some moments in Nacho Libre, all of them courtesy of Jack Black, that border on slightly amusing, but by and large this is no School of Rock. The fault lies in the idiotic script of Hess, his brother Jerusha Hess and Mike White (Chuck & Buck), who have written a collection of largely unfunny jokes geared toward those under the age of 12. It is possible to have a movie that is both stupid and fun, which in turn becomes entertaining. But stupid and stupid is always plain stupid, and, just so there is no misunderstanding, this movie is stupid. It's what could happen if the Farrelly Brothers tried to make a Coen Brothers movie—and failed. If you mix beer and wine at the same time, you often get vomit.

Sure, people will laugh and run off at the mouth about how great Nacho Libre is, but keep in mind that those insipid Ernest movies were popular enough to warrant 10 films in the franchise, proving it is possible to pee on some people's heads and convince them it's raining. And that's not to say Nacho Libre is as bad as Ernest Scared Stupid, but it certainly isn't as good as They Call Me Bruce?

Perhaps the only thing more unsettling than the remedial script, contrived plot and forced humor of Nacho Libre is the fact that Black plays a Mexican—OK, half Mexican—in a film that never amounts to more than a childish joke that starts off with, "Did you hear the one about the Mexican priest who wanted to be a wrestler?" People may be too distracted by the overwhelming stench of the fart jokes to recognize the faintest hint of racist humor. But since it's just a silly comedy, it really isn't all that offensive—sort of like C. Thomas Howell's blackface performance in Soul Man.


Opens Friday, June 16. St. Johns Twin, Lloyd Cinema, Eastport, Division St., Oak Grove, Cedar Hills, Cornelius, Evergreen Pkwy, Hilltop, Lake Twin, Movies on TV, Sherwood, Tigard, Cinema 99, Cinetopia, City Center, Vancouver Plaza.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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