One of the most common misconceptions about film critics - whether professional or amateur - is that they cannot enjoy "stupid" movies. And while I can only speak for myself, entertainment can cover a multitude of sins. As long as I find the film entertaining and enjoyable, I'm satisfied. And if a "stupid" movie meets that criteria, so be it. The problem with Nacho Libre (or one of many) is that it's not merely stupid. It's downright insulting. And the film simply isn't entertaining enough (and certainly not enjoyable enough) to forgive its glaring offenses.
There's not so much a story here, as there is a premise. Ignacio is the cook in a Mexican orphanage run by nuns and friars. Ignacio, who cares deeply for the orphans, wishes to provide better food for them. So he fulfills his lifelong dream of becoming a professional wrestler, in order to win money to support the orphanage. The catch is that the orphanage finds wrestling to be disdainful, therefore, Igancio must keep his wrestling persona (entitled, "Nacho Libre") a secret.
Let's start with the positives of my viewing experience. I got to sit in a very comfortable office chair. It had an adjustable back that allowed me to recline with ease and it had two arms on the sides so I didn't have to deal with the awkward dilemma of deciding whether I should have my hands joint on my lap, or position one on each leg. Regrettably, there was no spot for me to rest my head, so by the end of the movie I had a rather uncomfortable crick in my neck, though it did produce a satisfying crack when I swiveled my head after the movie had graciously elected to present the end credits.
In analysis of the film itself, the positives are a bit less intriguing (which just goes to show how dismal this movie is). There are roughly three smiles to be had over the course of this film - excluding the smile of relief that comes with the entrance of the end credits, and excluding the smile that occurs before the film starts in vain hope that this might duplicate some of the better aspects of director Jared Hess' previous film, Napoleon Dynamite.
Other than that, we get to see a bit of the quirky style of cinematography employed in Napoleon Dynamite. As far as I can tell, Nacho Libre was filmed on location in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the scenery is lovely. I'm sure the cast and crew had a wonderful time there. Maybe they sampled the local cuisine, visited some famous landmark or other. Perhaps they purchased themselves a souvenir or two to celebrate the occasion. I'm sure they made memories to last a life time.
Also, the film is 92 minutes, and though it feels like it's 92 hours, at least it's not 93 minutes.
Now that the overwhelming positives are out of the way, let us move on to the meat of things. Frankly speaking, Nacho Libre is utter trash. Worse, even. It is overwhelmingly terrible. Letting this rubbish get away with that very label is an illustration of my boundless generosity and unfathomable thoughtfulness. Though one expects that the film is targeting an audience akin to that of Napoleon Dynamite (that is, 12-18 year olds), the screenplay appears to be written with five year olds in mind. Though in my humble opinion, any parent that allows their child to be exposed to this waste is liable for abuse.
Example 1: Nacho Libre has one rule, and that is as follows - As long as you say it in a funny voice, whatever you say is funny. Thus, we have one of the laziest scripts in recent history. The dialogue doesn't have an ounce of humor on it. The film leaves it up to the cast (chiefly our esteemed leading actor, Jack Black) to say it in such a way that it might be perceived as comedy. We get lines such as "I don't want to get paid to lose, I want to win!," that would never be mistaken in any other comedy as "humorous." But if Jack Black says it in that Mexican accent, it simply MUST be worth laughing at.
By the way, the voices aren't funny either.
Example 2: All the obnoxious children's film cliches are here! Poop jokes, fart jokes, butt jokes, butt crack jokes, wedgie jokes, more poop jokes, fat people jokes, more butt jokes, jokes about Mexicans (this one is a smidgen less common in children's films), jokes about accents, jokes about serious rituals, jokes about gross food, more wedgie jokes, more fat people jokes, skinny people jokes, people-singing-awful-sounding-songs jokes, and of course, slapstick.
Now, seeing as this is a wrestling comedy, there is an abundance of slapstick. And while one could be lead to believe that at least the slapstick comedy could be done well in such a film as this, they would be crushingly wrong. There are a number of rules involved with slapstick.
Rule 1: All good things in moderation. Slapstick, most of all.
Now, one could argue that in a film like Nacho Libre, it is impossible to rein back on the slapstick. And while I really do think that if the script was better, at least half of the slapstick could have been cut out, the script is so bad, it's understandable that the director might choose to saturate the production with its numerous wrestling sequences. And yet, it matters little how much slapstick a film contains, if none of it is funny. Observe.
Rule 2: Good slapstick has weight. It should look genuine. If someone is supposed to get punched, it sure as heck better look like that someone actually got punched.
Jared Hess cannot get the slapstick right. It never looks real. It doesn't look like anyone is actually getting hurt. Yes, as suggested by name, slapstick is supposed to be "harmless violence," in that no one is supposed to really get hurt. But in a film that's all about wrestling, and beating people up in the ring, etc., we should wince at least a bit. Instead, it almost looks like I could walk into the ring myself, and then exit unharmed. If slapstick is to be funny, it should look like it hurts. Instead, some characters are literally punching air. I'm sorry Hess, but you can't veil badly choreographed slapstick with loud sound effects.
One of several frustrating things about this film is the clear lack of effort put into this film. Anyone can write in a script, "[character name] smears poop all over [other character's name]'s face." Anyone can write in a script, "[character name] leaps around in spandex." Anyone can write in the script "[character name] talks about puppies, but her accent causes her to sound like she's saying 'poopies'." The closest thing to clever that the script does is have Jack Black's character sing a Lion King rip off that includes a gag that might have been funny, had it not been lifted directly from Shrek.
Surely Nacho Libre doesn't expect anyone in the double-digit age range to find diarrhea jokes funny. No one thinks it's funny to have Jack Black's character hit on a nun. And I'd be hard-pressed to find someone that would laugh at Jack Black loudly using a public restroom.
How can a film like Nacho Libre be accepted as entertainment, when there are so many comedy films around that produce consistent laughs and feature gags that could actually be deemed "intelligent?" Take a film like The Incredibles, where every line is dripping with satire and sophistication. And yet, the dialogue is hilarious and accessible. Kids will laugh at the gags, adults will laugh at the gags, and neither feels like the film is pandering to the lowest-common denominator. Even Napoleon Dynamite felt like it was trying, and it managed a reasonable number of chuckles. In Nacho Libre, it just feels like the director told Jack Black to do whatever he wanted in a "funny" accent and a "funny" costume.
The cast is required to do very little of significant effort. Jack Black speaks in a purposefully silly Mexican accent and runs around in a cape and spandex for 90 minutes. He occasionally makes silly faces, and he stands in positions that accentuate his rear. Big deal; a million people on YouTube have filmed themselves doing the same thing. The rest of the cast speaks in exaggerated Mexican accents and some get to make silly faces. To put it bluntly, no one is pushing for an Oscar nomination.
Even with all my frustrations involving the ambitiously juvenile humor, this film is made even worse just because it's extensively dull. At least when I was offended by the low-aiming humor, I could get mad or frustrated. But otherwise, the film is just a bore. Nacho Libre runs out of plot half an hour in, and it runs out of working gags before the Nickelodeon logo even debuts. But still, the excessive amount of obvious and potty-related gags are the most disturbing factor. Why do people find this funny? I think the phrase "losing faith in humanity" is vastly overused. And yet, as far as descriptors for this film goes, I can think of no better alternative. The profitable box office numbers for this film lends itself very nicely to that phrase as well.