The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 19, 2006 - 11
'Libre' a comic K.O.
By Imran Syed worthy of his beloved stretchy pants.
Daily Arts Writer The power of a film like "Nacho Libre" - which
aims to delight good-heartedly - lies in its char-
F____REVEW______ acters. And they're all charming here. Nacho is an
underdog worth rooting for even before he utters
If "Napoleon Dynamite" was a success - and it a word; he exudes the qualities of a man who has
was, at least commercially - it marked the arrival dreamt of rising above himself since the day he
of a singular new filmmaker could think, something we can all applaud. Then
with a touch and stylistic tenor there is his wrestling partner Esqueleto (newcom-
dramatically definitive of an Nacho Libre er Hector Jimenez), originally a thief who Nacho
up-and-coming generation's At the Showcase convinces to fight to gain respect. Esqueleto is the
collective mood. Now direc- and Quality 16 perfect partner in crime for Nacho, not least of all
tor Jared Hess returns with Paramount because he cushions the movie's various punch-
his sophomore effort "Nacho lines so effortlessly.
Libre," and proves once again The humor of "Nacho" is in the same vein as
the viability of his distinctive style, both of humor "Dynamite" in the sense that it's not what's said
and of storytelling. And though some purists may that's funny, but how it's said. As such, it takes
still downplay his form as lowly and inane, "Nacho some familiarity with that particular mode of
Libre" is inventive, engaging, lovable and, of speech to find humor in Nacho simply pronounc-
course, downright hilarious. ing "anyways." This is probably why many critics
Owing to Hess's affinity for a leading man will deride this form of humor, calling it shoddy,
that wouldn't lead any other film, "Nacho Libre" menial or downright stupid, but in fact, it's simply
centers on a friar at a Mexican orphanage named something they can't relate to. But for the generation
Ignacio (Jack Black, "King Kong") who moon- whose ear has heard these words and expressions on
lights as a masked luchador wrestler named playgrounds and in school cafeterias, "Nacho" is a
Nacho. Lucha is Ignacio's passion, and his win- satire no less accomplished than "Seinfeld"; it too
nings help him buy fresh ingredients with nutri- delivers on the "moments that happen in between
ents to make delectable meals for all the orphans. the moments everyone remembers."
But he soon learns that his fascination with his And on the note of inanity, we come to the final
fame is unbecoming of a priest-in-training. Nacho sweeping accomplishment of Hess's humor - it is
faces the choice of fame or fealty and overcomes built on its character's feelings of inanity. Much like
the boundaries of both to become a hero truly "Dynamite" capitalized on the feeling of hopeless-
"Now don't you go telling anyone about this 'special study session.' "
ness and entrapment that its protagonist suffered
from, "Nacho" too is the story of an ordinary man
who feels stifled and wants to become something
more. But unlike other stories where the hero must
clean himself up and change who he is to gain
respect, "Nacho" once again says that the average
person can be a hero without having to change him-
self. Nacho wins respect as a wrestler and within
his orphanage because he works to get everyone to
recognize who he is and how special he is.
And in a nation, time and medium where even
underdog stories tell us we must become something-
else to achieve greatness, Hess and his unbridled
screen heroes foster an uplifting realization.
'Dynamite' director returns with distinctive style
By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
When Jared Hess and a few of his
friends from college got together to
produce the searching, compelling
statement on the monotonous, face-
less suburban high school experience,
"Napoleon Dynamite," they really
weren't sure what would come of it.
Said Hess: "When we were shooting
'Dynamite,' I didn't know if the film
would ever see the light of day. I was
hoping that maybe we could sell it on
video or to a cable channel."
But their work paid off, and now,
only two years removed, Hess has
completed his second effort, the con-
siderably better-funded "Nacho Libre."
"There are obviously expecta-
tions for any filmmaker's sophomore
endeavor, but I try to stay focused on
making the type of movie that I want to
see, and I have a lot of fun doing it."
He admitted the scale of a big-
studio production did, at first, over-
"It's been a baptism by fire for me
... On 'Dynamite,' we were sleeping
in neighbors' basements, and it was a
small group of people that made that
film. This really is just multiplied by a
hundred. The scale of it took me a little
while to get used to."
Yet Hess - in the tradition of film-
makers who aggressively fight to
remain just that, and don't become dis-
tracted by other parts of the production
process - realizes that his creative
process must not change.
"Ultimately you're still making a
movie and it's still a lot of fun, and I
had an amazing experience."
Knowing that the Hollywood suits
and big budget haven't watered down
Hess's unique perspective, the cast-
ing of Jack Black into the lead role as
a monk who moonlights as a luchador
wrestler is further proof that Hess's
flare for the odd leading man remains
alive and well. He explained: "I defi-
nitely love to root for an underdog and
Nacho is an underdog as well. For me,
these are the types of characters that
are a bit more interesting, and I'm able
to relate to them a bit more. I'm drawn
to those people in real life."
And in speaking of Black, Hess has
nothing but the fondest memories: "It
was a real dream to work with someone
like Jack. He's one of the nicest human
beings I've ever met, and he doesn't have
an ego at all. We had such a fun time
coming up with new ideas, he'sjust a true
gentleman and one of the funniest people
I've ever known. It was a true collabora-
tion in every sense of the word"
And even in the cutthroat business
of moviemaking, as he stands on the
verge of a blockbuster, Hess appreci-
ates the experience of making the film
and hopes audiences will be ableto get
a true feel for his story.
"We were all so sad to see everyone
leave. It was something really special that
I don't know if I'll ever experience again
... Ijust wanted to make another fun, cool
movie that people enjoy"
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