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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Nacho Libre

I had wanted to see this movie since seeing its trailers several months ago. While I am an obvious fan of real wrestling, I am also a fan of Jack Black and some of the old style entertainment wrestling. I haven’t been a fan of the recent events spurred on by the likes of WWE or WWF. That being said, I thought this looked like a fun movie worth taking in. I am also fan of Jack Black’s band Tenacious D. I only mention that because for the first time in awhile, we get a taste of his talents as a singer. Not since School of Rock has Jack Black exhibited his skills in this area.

I have been a fan of Jared Hess since his directorial work in Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon Dynamite was the quirky film that became a cult classic. Many fans were looking forward to Nacho Libre and while some will be disappointed, I can’t help but think many will like Nacho Libre enough to send it into the cult favorite category.

Nacho Libre is a strange story. Nacho, played by Jack Black is a man who doesn’t have much favor in the monastery where he serves as a Friar and cook for the orphans. He has had dreams his entire life and while a deeply religious man, he has always had a desire to be a professional Luche Libre, professional wrestler. From the time when he was a small boy, he has kept in the book that means the most to him, his Bible, the thing that means the most to him, a reminder of his desire to be a wrestler, a drawing of the uniform he hopes to someday wear.

Nacho has a miserable life at the monastery. He is never given the things he needs to do his job well. He makes mush instead of food, and even has the children asking for salad instead of the slop he offers for meals. Of course neither do the religious leaders have an understanding of his needs. They don’t provide him the things he needs or desires, and tend to look down on him as opposed to seeing him as a person who loves the children he is working for.

Along the way to pick up a donation of chips from a local restaurant Nacho is robbed by Esqueleto, played by Hector Jimanez of Napoleon Dynamite fame where he played the part of Pedro. Through the strange relationship that develops Nacho and Esqueleto decide to enter some local wrestling events to try and win prize money. It doesn’t take long before these two figure out, that even in losing, they can bring in more money than they could have ever imagined. For Esqueleto it means food and clothing, and for Nacho, it means income to start providing meals the orphans at the monastery can enjoy.

The relationship between Nacho and Esqueleto is different for obvious reasons. Nacho is fat, Esqueleto is skinny, Nacho is a believer and follower of God, Esaueleto is an atheist, he don’t believe in God, he only believes in science. Despite the many differences of these two, they engage on a strange relationship which begins to make a difference, not just to them but to all of those they come into contact with. It is from witnessing each others actions that they teach each other. It is as if the actions of the heart impresses and convicts more than the words the two share and exchange.

Along the way, the differences between Nacho and Esqueleto come into play, but despite those differences we see the two characters learning more about themselves, and each other. As the two continue to wrestle, it isn’t long before the monks at the monastery where Nacho works finds out about his wrestling. Wrestling is a forbidden experience and one that the monks frown upon. There is a new nun Sister Encarnación played by beautiful and talented actress Ana De La Reguera. She sees a positive side of Nacho that no one else seems to see with the exception of some of the children. Even with her support, Nacho feels left out and misunderstood, and for all practical purposes he is.

I won’t give much away with the rest of the review, other than to say that there are very strong points to be made in the story of Nacho. The power of faith is catamount to the story. This is especially true in the relationship between Nacho and Esqueleto. We see this towards the conclusion of the movie, one of the characters make a dramatic change in their beliefs. It is once this change is made that we see the story change. While the concept of change that is presented is predictable, it is also a pleasant surprise to see in a movie.

Nacho is in reality a figure that I wouldn’t mind my child emulating. He takes his earnings from wrestling and for the most part gives the overwhelming majority of his possessions to the poor and orphans. While he starts to lose his way, he has a wilderness experience that helps bring him back to the point of recognizing what is important to him. His service of God and his service to his fellow human being, especially the poor and needy is noticeable and admirable.

I must comment that on this aspect, I was very pleased with Nacho Libre. I wish the story would have a little more seriousness to it to have helped illustrate this powerful message that seemed to come right out of the Gospels of Jesus. We see Nacho as a man taking his message of love to those very people we read about in Matthew 25: 31 – 46. We see the poor, the elderly, the homeless, the children, and on and on. The very images that we all respect and appreciate in individuals like Mother Theresa, come through even in wrestlers like Nacho. Nacho in his foolishness has found those things and the power of living out that message. It leaves one to question if it was really foolishness, or the God given desire to follow his dreams. Something we can all learn from. To watch and participate in that journey provides a message that we can share with the many that see this movie.

On a scale of 1-10 for the number of children at the monastery who go out of their way to see Nacho wrestle, a fun entertaining 6


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