I swear to holy Christ: If I see one more piece of Napoleon Dynamite paraphernalia, I'm going to go batshit insane. This goes for the Napoleon bobbleheads, "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts, and the action figures. It goes for the key chains, talking pens, chap stick, and everything else Napoleon's face can be printed on. If there's ever been a film killed by its own hype (no, more than that: slaughtered, decimated, gored, mutilated), it's Napoleon Dynamite—which started out as a quirky Sundance flick and ended up challenging Tim Burton toys for shelf space at Hot Topic.
All that merch made the micro-budgeted Napoleon incredibly profitable, though; something that Paramount's surely hoping they can duplicate with the second major film from the Napoleon team. Nacho Libre follows Nacho (Jack Black), who cooks at a Mexican orphanage by day and straps on baby blue tights to wrestle on the Lucha Libre circuit by night.
Napoleon and Nacho's director, Jared Hess, teams up again with his wife, Jerusha, to write Nacho, and they're joined by Mike White, the writer of Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, and Black's The School of Rock. Which is weird, because there's not a thing in Nacho that feels remotely like it's from the talented White: Everything here feels like Napoleon Dynamite. There's the semi-retarded but loveable titular character, the semi-retarded but loveable sidekick, the constant tone of deadpan weirdness, and—just as in Napoleon—one's never sure if the Hess duo is mocking or sympathizing with their protagonists. Scene by scene, Nacho feels like a south-of-the-border Napoleon, a formula that could be a lot worse, but could also be a lot better.
There are some pretty great things about Nacho, namely Black (and his caricatured Mexican accent), along with some really creepy/awesome midget luchadores. And the Hess' writing style—which consists almost entirely of sitcom-y setups, non sequiturs, and catchphrase-y lines—boasts a few hilarious bits, even if their formula's already starting to feel lazy. But when a movie's as light and fun as this, I can live with that. At least, I can until the Nacho Libre merchandising frenzy begins—at which point I suspect Nacho will wear out his welcome as quickly as Napoleon.