Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a pair of test screening reviews for the upcoming Jack Black vehicle from writer/director Jared Hess (NAPOLEON DYNAMITE). I was shown some clips from this movie last time I was in LA, in my whirlwind before attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The clips I was shown were really damned funny, including a run-in that Nacho and his twerpy sidekick had with a pair of gruff, older Mexican wrestlers... This scene had Nacho coming upon these assholes as they pop the tires on his weird little buggy/cart/thing he rides in the movie. The scene plays out like a Sergio Leone film, with the 2 Mexican wrestlers and Nacho and his sidekick staring each other down... No guns, but one of the Mexican wrestlers brings out a knife... unfortunately the only weapon either Nacho or his little buddy have is a stick of half-eaten roasted corn. You'd be surprised how this plays out, especially for a PG movie.
The scene reminded me of my favorite bit from NAPOLEON, a random bit of weirdness... The scene where the old farmer loads his shot gun and kills the cow in front of the school bus full of kids... That scene had me rolling.
Now we have these two test screening reviews. Comedy is a tough bird to test. I've said it a billion times before and I'll say it again, but comedy depends on timing above all else, so these test screening reviews, especially for comedies, always have to be taken as what they are, a look at work in progress. The first review is the less spoilery of the two we have for you and seems to echo the second, albeit a little less harshly in the negative aspects. Enjoy!
I caught an advance screening of Nacho Libre last night. Let me preface this by saying I am a huge fan of Napoleon Dynamite and also had the honor of catching that one in an advance screening. I remember laughing at Napoleon Dynamite so hard that we were in actual physical pain.
Nacho Libre also had wonderful moments where the laughs were so hard it was painful, there just weren't as many.
They said the version we were seeing was an early cut so some elements were unfinished, music, sound-mix, some missing effects...etc. It wasn't even a 35mm print we got to watch it was projected digitally.
Jack Black, while wonderful was just not as compelling as a character as Napoleon in this version. I have high hopes for the final cut. While I liked this cut of Nacho Libre my hope is they go back and make some changes and really make it soar. It has the potential to be great.
if you use this call me filmgirl.
Now this review plays it nice at the beginning then WHAM! You get hit with the negativity. Although what works seems to really work. Hopefully X-Ray Cat's gripes with the film will be addressed before release... Either that, or hopefully I'll disagree. Here's the more spoilerific review! Enjoy!
Hey Harry and Moriarty, long time reader, first time writer here with my reactions to the first test screening of NACHO LIBRE, the much anticipated Jack Black/Jared Hess/Mike White comedy. I should probably say that I'm a fan of all three of those people so I assume I'm the target audience for this movie. In my opinion, about 25% of the movie is classic. Jack Black does a damn fine job at what you could call his first real stretch of an acting job, playing a character instead of a variation of his Tenacious D persona. Every facial expression that passes his Ignatio character's face is freeze-frame gold. And the guy that plays his sidekick Steven, whose name I can't figure out since the screening had no credits and he's not yet on IMDB, is immediately going to join the ranks of today's funniest character actors. He is damn funny. And Jared Hess really confirms himself as a great visual director along the lines of Wes Anderson. He's worked with the cinematographer and costume designer to create some really inspired characters, especially the bevy of villains including a pair of speedy lion-masked dwarves that nearly brought the entire theater to tears with laughter. Also, his use of beautiful Mexican scenery is a brilliantly strange choice for a comedy to play out. The fight scenes are hilarious, fast-paced, and surprisingly legitimate. Jables doesn't just flail his flab around the ring for comic effect like you might expect, he really kicks some ass, and it's not a stunt double.
So that's the 25%. The rest is mediocre at best, and total horseshit at its worst. Nickelodeon Movies is apparently presenting the film, so I can't help but wonder if they've been pushing some changes to market is specifically to a younger audience. I knew it would be fairly innocent because of Hess. But NAPOLEON DYNAMITE wasn't for kids, it just wasn't exclusively for adults. It was more of a Homestar Runner vibe where the PG rating feels like an afterthought instead of a mandate. NACHO is filled with fart sounds, gulping sound effectings, sproinks and boings, clothes catching fire, fat ladies, fat kids, wedgies, and titty twisters. Stuff that was very obviously thrown in to get big laughs from 12 and unders, which feels really awkward when it's pushed up against the movie's offbeat storyline and characters.
The script itself is the weakest aspect of the movie. Most of its successes come from the previously mentioned performances and visuals. Mike White either phoned it in, or the studio forced some uncredited rewrites. His script for SCHOOL OF ROCK, a masterpiece of how to be funny within mainstream accessibility, has a good quote every 30 seconds. I can think of at least ten off the top of my head right now. I can't remember any lines from NACHO LIBRE, and I just saw it a couple hours ago. Jared and his wife worked on the script too, but they didn't help. NAPOLEON DYNAMITE has a lot of haters due to its recent overmarketing, but at least it had enough memorable one-liners to fill up all those T-shirts and bumperstickers. I can't imagine how they could pull off a similar campaign with NACHO. The only catchphrase they try to push is...fuck, I can't even remember it. Oh yeah, "take it easy." "Take it easy."
There's also parts of the story that just don't make sense. There's a ridiculous segment toward the beginning where a stranger tells Ignatio to seek out the "Gypsy Emperor" or something to gain fighting superpowers. The Gypsy is played in a short and shitty cameo by Peter Stormare, who tells Ignatio to climb a cliff and drink the yolk of an eagle egg. He does. Yet his fighting skills don't change at all, and they never mention it again. It wouldn't even make a good deleted scene.
The film is still a rough cut obviously, so a lot of work can be done. The crowd's reactions seemed to be all across the board, so I have no idea how they'll decide what changes to make. It's possible that if they tighten it up, try some alternate takes, cut some scenes and maybe even do some reshoots, they could turn this into the kind of thing you might buy on DVD. As it is, I recommend watching it once and then pretty much letting it slip your mind forever. It's not terrible, but it's a shame Jack had to delay PICK OF DESTINY to shoot this, because even with recuts it could never be a comedy classic because of its useless script. So if you're looking for this year's 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, you'll have to hope for TALLADEGA NIGHTS or IDIOCRACY.