“Love him or hate him” Jack Black is skating on thin ice in my tattered book of comedy, which for a man of his girth is not a wise idea. I found his face contortionist routine semi-enjoyable in School of Rock when shared with an amicable class of kids. In Peter Jackson’s King Kong, his boisterous antics are merely tolerable thanks to otherworldly CGI distractions. Now in Nacho Libre, Jack stands virtually alone in the ring leaving the eyes and mind nowhere else to wander for satisfaction ” comedic or otherwise.
Nacho is pretty much dead on arrival from the moment Jack is introduced as Ignacio, a pathetic “going nowhere in life” cook for a Christian orphanage who is motivated to chase his dreams to become a luchador (wrestler) when a beautiful young nun arrives. With eyebrows distractingly jumping up and down at every opportunity, Ignacio must decide between following his dream to defeat the reigning luchador champion Ramses at risk of losing his job at the orphanage, or abandoning his dream and only hope for happiness by obeying his religious oaths and responsibilities. The latter choice might have made for a better film.
Spider-man needed little time to craft a suit and find his way, but Ignacio flounders through at least a half hour of serving up putrid dishes to clergymen and playing sinful puppy dog eyes with the nun before finally donning his signature tights and entering the ring with his stick figure partner, Esqueleto. Together, this physically awkward pair proves amateurs are no match for professional luchadors when they are repeatedly beaten to a pulp. Yet they still manage to collect money as fans enjoy their ineptitude which provides incentive for them to keep wrestling.
These intermittent matches offer the best hope for laughs but ultimately fall short save for an insanely acrobatic clash between Nacho, Esqueleto, and a pair of jungle savage midgets. Other choice moments are worth a chuckle such as Nacho and Esqueleto training with a bull, but there aren’t near enough of them to overcome the film’s inadequate entertainment value. As the story thankfully winds down into its predicable concluding bout with Ramses, self-pitying Ignacio wanders into the desert to die. I only wish he had stayed there for good.
Nacho Libre has been given an almost day-and-date release on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray by Paramount, their first such trifecta since delving into high definition formats. On Blu-ray, the 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is virtually identical to the HD DVD version; both of which are a mixed bag representing some of the best and worst high definition formats have to offer. The good: many of Nacho’s exterior scenes under the sweltering Mexican sun offer great depth, detail and highly saturated colors. There is no absence of bright red outfits, blue skies and green trees which this transfer has no problem reproducing with stunning clarity. The bad: a good portion of the indoor scenes and select outdoor scenes shot in intense lighting conditions come across as soft and blotchy compared to the rest of the film. Some digital noise is more apparent in the backgrounds of these scenes as well, which throws off the overall high definition experience when jumping from spectacular crisp and bright imagery to so-so quality, and then back again.
Paramount has included a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track for Nacho Libre on Blu-ray Disc that shouldn’t be considered a downgrade from the “Plus” version on HD DVD as the source material never provides anything substantial to take advantage of a meatier encode. Most of Ignacio’s adventures are dialogue-driven which pushes much of the audio information to the front and center speakers. Even when the samba and 70s-influenced tunes play during the fights, the rears and subwoofer are hardly put to use. This is a shame too, as I found the varied Central American beats helped pull me away from the train wreck on-screen to a better place.
All of the extras found on the standard DVD and HD DVD version also appear on this Blu-ray Disc version. The only noticeable difference between the two high definition formats is the option to pause the film from the pop-up menu on the HD DVD that doesn’t appear here. Unfortunately neither version allows the extras to be accessed from the in-film navigation bar.
The Selection of extra features are quite impressive and can actually help justify time spent watching the feature. Jack Black, Director Jared Hess and Mike White sit down for some Mexican cuisine in Dinner and a Commentary. Like the film’s video quality, the trio is wildly inconsistent with staying focused on talking about their experiences making the film. Some information offered like cut scenes and random neat trivia like “female wrestlers not afraid to go for the jewels” are fun, but then the group will go silent for long stretches of time, apparently either content with their meal or actually engaged in their film.
A total of seven Featurettes are available with a play all option which is always highly recommended. Scattered throughout these pieces are a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, extended commercial marketing fluff, and intriguing history lessons about real-life luchadors. The final featurette, Moviephone Unscripted, pairs Jack Black and Hector Jimenez (Esqueleto) in an informal interview. Also included is Jack Sings for anyone brave enough to sit through more chords coming from his contorted mouth, and three forgettable Deleted Scenes.
On one hand, I have to praise Paramount for finally stepping into new theatrical high definition home video releases. Like it or not, Nacho Libre should help open the flood gates for many more day-and-day releases to come from the studio. On the other, I wish I could have the hour and a half wasted sitting through this tripe back. Nacho confirms my conclusion that Jack Black is best suited for an ensemble or secondary role, and not as the man with whom the entire film’s success falls. When the film he’s supposed to carry on his shoulders is poorly conceived to begin with, there’s little that can save it ” even a high definition presentation.
– Dan Bradley