Comedy concepts don't come much funnier than Jack Black in a leotard, and Nacho Libre will no doubt sell plenty of tickets on that basis alone. But this is a strange, stitched-together movie; half traditional gross-out, half Gen-X slacker. Black provides plenty of chuckles as a poor monk seduced by the glory and glamour of Mexican wrestling. There are fart jokes and sexually voracious fat ladies. But it all takes place in a sun-parched world of indie quirkiness.
The man behind this schizophrenic beast is director Jared Hess, whose last film was the altogether weirder Napoleon Dynamite. He seems ill-at-ease helming a featherweight romp like this, and his langorous shooting style only serves to stretch the gaps between laughs. There are laughs to be had though, mostly at the expense of Black's charming hero, a joy to behold in his Superman pants and eeemplasible meheecan accent. The film really takes off when Black teams up with a beansprout-skinny street thief (Hector Jimenez) who calls himself The Skeleton. Their public matches are screamingly funny: one bout with a midget tag-team would make the Farrelly brothers blush.
"STRETCHED GAPS BETWEEN LAUGHS"
Out of the ring though, Nacho Libre veers uneasily between sentiment (Black has a crush on a visiting nun) and a startling meanness of spirit. Hess seems endlessly delighted by ugliness, whether it be his hero's paunch or a monk's greasy combover. The overall effect is a little patronising. You get the impression that the director thinks this knockabout stuff is beneath him. It's in only in the tiny offbeat moments - there's a delightful romantic moment involving crunchy toast - that his camera takes an interest.