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The iconic cult status of the movie Napoleon Dynamite is seen both in the ubiquity of t-shirts that say Vote for Pedro and by the fact the most people who see the t-shirts don't know have a clue who Pedro is. Pedro, played by Efren Ramirez, was the sidekick in Napoleon Dynamite who stole every scene he was in. Now Jared Hess, the writer/director of Napoleon Dynamite, has made his next film, Nacho Libre. This movie tells a story, which until now has been fairly obscure north of the border, of Mexican wrestlers who wear masks not just in the ring but all the time. This type of wrestling is known as Lucha Libre. The story focuses on a young Friar (Jack Black) who wants both the fame of the Luchadores as they are called, and to make some money to help the poor orphanage where he works. He also wants to impress a young nun (Ana de la Reguera) that he is falling in love with. He takes the name, Nacho (so the name of the movie is a riff on Lucha Libre) and along with his tag-team partner (Héctor Jiménez), they embark on a career in wrestling. They tend to get beaten badly but they also make some money for the orphanage. There isn't much drama in Nacho Libre or much story beyond what I have outlined for that matter. But Nacho finally has to choose between working at the orphanage and pursuing his dream of being a famous Luchador.
For good or ill this is Jack Black's movie. If you have seen him in High Fidelity or School of Rock, you will know what I am talking about. When he is on the screen, it is all about him, and this is a good thing. Like Bill Murray, Jack Black can be funny while just doing nothing but standing there. Anyway, Nacho Libre needs Jack Black because there isn't much to it and the script, what there is of it, isn't that funny. Other than Black, the cast is mostly from Mexico where the movie was shot. Jiménez who does a lot of scene stealing himself is a well-know stage actor in Mexico. Ana de la Reguera is an almost identical twin Penelope Cruz, who also played a nun in All About my Mother. She is also well known in Mexico but new to us. Nacho Libre is a total slapstick comedy. The script is secondary. Napoleon Dynamite was also physical comedy but it had more of an amusing premise and even in a slapstick comedy, it is an advantage to have some characters who are more than one dimensional. Nacho Libre's characters are barely one dimensional. But the comedic force that is Jack Black, aided by Héctor Jiménez, who is the "Pedro" of this film, is almost enough to save Nacho Libre. Parts of it are quite amusing but there isn't enough to keep it going for its full 100 minutes. Nacho Libre has lots of energy but lacks the cute bizarreness of Napoleon Dynamite.