Husband-and-wife filmmakers Jerusha ared and Jared Hess
share a bizarre sense of humor, one that's difficult to categorize but apparently pretty popular. They know what amuses them, be it an eccentric sight gag or a particular turn of phrase, and they stand by their decisions whether they fit the context of their chosen story or not. They co-write scripts for Jared to direct and pay specific attention to individual words that might score bigger laughs. Rarely would a character in their movie say "pants," for example, because "slacks" or "trousers" sounds more unique.
Is there an audience for the Hess' brand of comedy? You better believe it. Their initial collaboration, Napoleon Dynamite, was a win-win for Fox Searchlight
that catapulted beyond its expected cult status and became a surprise mainstream hit. The duo's anticipated follow-up film, Nacho Libre, maintains the same odd cadence and strange plotting as Dynamite (though there's more of a story, which in a roundabout way is a compliment), but banks its fortunes on the go-for-broke antics of comedian Jack Black
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The gamble pays off for the film's first two-thirds, though the laughs fade fast as Nacho crawls toward its ending credits. Black funnels the pent-up energy of a prepubescent teen into the role of Ignacio, a Mexican priest drawn to the forbidden sport of lucha libre, or freestyle wrestling. At first he's smitten with the wealth and attention tied to the life of a luchador. When he realizes his prize money can benefit the orphans in his care, Ignacio dedicates his energies to becoming the world's greatest fighter.
It's best that you answer this question before investing your time and money: Are you amused at the sight of a heavyset person testing his or her ability to resist gravity and defy the natural laws of physics? Because Jared Hess is enamored with the idea – heck, he stakes his entire film on this concept – so he spends every frame reminding us of Black's girth. Nacho parades shot-after-shot of the comedian's fleshy stomach peeking out from too-tight sweatshirts or wrestling outfits. Would we laugh quite as hard if rail-thin David Spade tried to squeeze himself into stretchy pants the way portly Black does? Not likely. In reality, if Black had shed 15 pounds prior to shooting, his shrunken waistline would taken half of the film's jokes with it.
The remaining gags are haphazardly tossed out in a desperate hope that something sticks. Ignacio teams with a lanky street thief (Hector Jimenez
), though we learn nothing about this character and he's irrelevant to the thin plot. I wondered if Hess included him solely because audiences connected with Napoleon's eccentric sidekick, Pedro. Not that it matters much. Superfluous irregularities standing in the way of the Ignacio's underdog mission are clumsily swept away in time for our hero to impress his lady (Ana de la Reguera
) and save the starving children.
Did Nacho change my perspective on global issues and prompt me to rethink my daily routines? No. For that, check out Al Gore
’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth
. Did Nacho make me laugh while I was in the theater? Certainly. And for a comedy, what more can we expect?