Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nacho Libre

Nacho: "Chancho, when you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room...Just for fun"

Jack Black
Hector Jiminez
Ana de la Reguera

Written By:
Jared Hess
Jerusha Hess
Mike White

Directed By:
Jared Hess

My Rating: 4/5

On the back of last year's Napolean Dynamite, Jared Hess teamed up with School of Rock star Jack Black and his collaborator Mike White for this wrestling comedy. With such acclaimed names attached, the pressure is on to deliver something quite special. Happily, I found the film to be both comically rich and technically impressive. Jared Hess has developed significantly since his last effort Napolean Dynamite (2004). His style is still evident, but his emphasis on mise-en-scene and attention to detail are more advanced. He shoots in slow, steady wide shots or slow steady close-ups. The film has the same slow, almost monotonous pacing that Napolean Dynamite has and this may account for the lukewarm reception it has received. Such unconventional style is acceptable for a cult movie but the Frat Pack audience may not be accustomed to it and may have found it hard to adjust to. It is very unusuall for this type of comedy to be presented in this style and on first viewing may appear awkward and boring.

The camera is constantly allowing the audience a glimpse of the largely fictional world created for the film by focussing attention on small details in the design. The camera also uses Jack Black perfectly. He has a huge amount of screen time which he uses wisely by filling every second of his screen time with the energy and outlandish antics we have come to expect from the Tenacious D frontman. All of the performances in the film were commendably consistent with the style of the film. All the actors were suitably awkward and monotonous, particulary Nacho's sidekick, Esqueleto (Hector Jiminez) and love interest Sr Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera).

The film's story moves along slowly and follows the basic predictable story structure of a sports movie. Luckily, the element of satire within the film allows it to get away with a lot of cheesiness and predictability. Nacho's unlikely champion overcomes the odds, gains the respect of his superiors, and in a way, gets the girl. There is also an interesting religious element which resolves itself nicely over the course of the film allowing Nacho to reach a compromise with the powers that be.

What makes this film stand out is the ability of the director to rein in Black's energy and create a passionate, likeable hero who we root for simply because the audience knows that he needs an outlet for his huge personality which is being wasted in the monastery kitchen. This outlet is the ungodly sport of wrestling which allows the film several hilarious and exciting scenes with Nacho and Esqueleto fighting a variety of colourful characters within the ring.

The wonderful soundtrack also helps to elevate the film's quality. It is filled with quirky Mexican tunes and the score (a 50-50 effort from Danny Elfman and Beck) that is melodic enough to appeal to a huge market if they had actually produced a soundtrack album (which they outrageously did not).

Overall, this film fails for the same reason it flourishes. It's montonous style and lack of Hollwood cinematography/editing makes it more challenging to watch than your average Jack Black vehicle. But I have a feeling it will have a space next to Napolean Dynamite on the "cult classic" shelf. It deserves one.

- Charlene Lydon 29/8/06

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