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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Nacho Libre: Mexploitation-lite, sometimes very funny, very predictable & uninspired plot, Black does a good job

Saw the new Jared "Napoleon Dynamite" Hess directed Jack Black movie Nacho Libre tonight. It is pretty funny, even hilarious at some points. But about 15 minutes into the movie I said to my date that Mexico is not gonna like this movie. It's a cartoonish movie so taking a deeper view of its racial, ethnic, national politics & viewpoints are probably not warranted - or but are they? Simple, widely distributed movies can easily set up negative stereotypes & reinforce negative perceptions, so I think it's cool to question exactly what we are seeing. Beyond the initial layer of a goofy movie about a monk who moonlights as a wrestler, here is what I saw & cringed at: 1) all adult characters save 2 - Black's Nacho & the nun - the object of Nacho's desire - are corrupt & without heroic qualities (they are sometimes likeable, but not consistently heroic & charmingly human as Black's character). Nacho - since he is played by Black - even with his mock-accent - is essentially the surrogate for America in the movie, and also a symbol of the positive aspects of European/"white" civilization. The dark skinned Mexicans are shown to be either pointlessly cruel (all the other wrestlers are generally cruel to ordinary people, without sufficient provocation), lacking in actual spirituality (the other monks in the monastery seem to be just marking time, not really into their work as a spiritual calling) or lacking in sexual & romantic fulfillment (Nacho's dark skinned Mexican sidekick is given many stereotypically gay movie character qualities, but he is not partnered at any point in the movie with a valid romantic or sexual counterpart, he does run away from a woman who is interested in him). The opportunity to discuss the disagreement between faith and science is introduced, but not followed up on or explored & developed. So what do I think about Nacho Libre - funny, possibly very funny for people who do not care or are not aware of negative Hollywood codes that are being reflected in the movie, and probably would not be 100% fun for people who are tired of seeing the dark skinned locals in a foreign country being portrayed as being less than heroic & less desirable compared with the light skinned American (even though Black's character plays, maybe ironically, a Mexican) main character. The plot is completely predictable & some of the epic changes that happen to the main character & one of his competitors are not very well explained. Things happen in the plot it seems like because at certain point they are supposed to happen in a certain way, not because the story being told produces justifications for the twists & turns. Jack Black is funny as always, but some of the choices made by the script & the director & possibly the studio, as mentioned above, makes the flick less than ideal for me.

- Sujewa

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