We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
“Fat guy in a little coat”: Extend that Chris Farley gag—the quote is all you need to know to picture it—to about 100 minutes and you’ve pretty much got Nacho Libre. Director Jared Hess’ follow-up to Napoleon Dynamite relies heavily on the sight of short, tubby Jack Black in not only a mustache, a ’70s perm, and those ridiculously arched eyebrows, but also flesh-spilling spandex. So clearly, Nacho is no one-dimensional comedy. OK, you might not laugh every time the incredibly game Black severely tests his wardrobe playing Ignacio/Nacho, an offensively accented priest in charge of cooking at a Mexican orphanage. But with the actor’s mania tamed and the director’s screenplay, co-written with his wife, Jerusha Hess, and longtime Black collaborator Mike White (School of Rock and, oops, Orange County), slipping in bits of desert-dry humor among all the broad silliness, there’s more than meets the eyeful. Though wrestling is forbidden at the monastery where he grew up, Ignacio has been dreaming about becoming a luchador ever since he was a kid, crude Spider-Man-like costume sketches and all. When he can’t take serving slop to the children—always referred to as “orphans”—anymore, Ignacio announces that he’s “the gatekeeper of my own destiny” and begins sneaking off to nighttime matches as Nacho. (Another inspiration, by the way, is Ana de la Reguera’s monastery newcomer, Sister Encarnación, one smokin’ woman of God.) Ignacio persuades Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez), the lanky dude who always jumps him when he picks up secondhand tortilla chips for the orphanage, to be his partner. Like Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho is a classic underdog story quirked up with a few bizarre characters. They’re better developed than that redheaded guy with dry lips, mostly because Hess just lets Black do his thing. During a solitary retreat up a mountain after a dispiriting near-defeat, Iganacio writes a song, which he animatedly performs when he returns: “I ate some bugs/I ate some grass/I used my hand/To wipe my…tears.” True, there’s lots of lowbrow stuff, not all of it even that witty and some of it borderline racist. But it only amplifies the effect of the movie’s more unexpected moments, such as when Esqueleto tells Nacho that he won’t pray in the ring because “I don’t believe in God—I believe in science.” Laugh now; feel guilty later. —Tricia Olszewski