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Pass on the ‘Nacho’

And skip a stay in ‘The Lake House’ too.


BLACK IN WHITE: 'Nacho' is for the birds.
  • BLACK IN WHITE: 'Nacho' is for the birds.

Sometimes, a great idea for a movie can be derailed just because a film doesn’t know what it wants to be: Romance or mystery? Horror or thriller? Drama or comedy?

Sadly, a really funny idea — and a stellar cast — goes to waste in the new film “Nacho Libre.” Unable to decide who its audience is — adults or kids — what could have potentially been a clever romp instead spins off into pointless, cartoon goofiness.

Jack Black, sporting a curly ’do and an exaggerated Mexican accent, plays the lead as Nacho. Orphaned in childhood, Nacho grows up to be the put-upon cook in a down-and-out monastery and orphanage deep in the Mexican countryside. He’s not much of a cook (he blames it on the poverty of the monastery, and his inability to buy ingredients), but he does have a secret dream, squirreled away since childhood: to be a luchadore, one of the famous masked wrestlers of Mexico.

During a mugging, Nacho is introduced to Esquelito (Hector Jimenez), a street-dwelling wild boy with amazing physical skill. With this new tag-team partner and some purloined drapes from the orphanage, Nacho seeks money for the orphanage — and the affection of new nun Sister Encarnacio (Ana Dela Regura) — by entering a tournament for new luchadores. Soon, Nacho and Esquelito are the popular losers of the local wrestling scene.

Had “Nacho Libre” been written and played for a more adult audience, the opportunities for comedy might have been pretty much limitless. As seen in “High Fidelity” and even “School of Rock,” Black works best when he’s unleashed, and the “keep it clean” edict that seems to rule “Nacho Libre” restrains him too much for comfort, leaving him with only a funny accent and a little slapstick to work with. The result is a flat-on-the-mat loser, which couldn’t even elicit laughs from the few ’tweens in attendance at our showing.

As he proved with his solid and memorable performance in “King Kong,” Black deserves better than this. Hopefully, he will shy away in the future from projects for the Nickelodeon set and play to the audience that can best appreciate his talents. 

‘Lake House’ swamped
I must admit, my Guilty Pleasure film genre is time travel. I’ve seen them all: “The Time Machine,” “Back to the Future (1, 2 and 3),” “Somewhere in Time,” “Frequency,” the “Terminator” films, “Primer,” and a dozen others — even last year’s dreadful “A Sound of Thunder.” If somebody’s monkeying around with the space/time continuum, I’m there, dude.

So it’s understandable that I was looking forward to the new time-travel-via-mailbox romance “The Lake House.” Scripted by Little Rock Hall High grad David Auburn, who wrote the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Proof,” trailers for “The Lake House” promised a sweeping little epic about love’s ability to conquer all, even time. Like many movies that try the time-travel route, however, “The Lake House” eventually collapses under the weight of paradox and complexity.

In the end, it’s a movie that is spoiled by its own ambition.

Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Kate Forster, who moves to Chicago in 2006 to take a job at a local hospital, and moves into a glass-box of a house situated along the shore of a lake. Through a series of incidents that I’m not going to describe or explain here (you might not have ready access to an economy-sized bottle of aspirin), she soon finds that letters placed in the mailbox of the house are magically whisked away to the year 2004, where they are answered by a previous resident of the house, architect Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves).

Through their magic mailbox, Forster and Wyler begin a relationship through letters, one that soon turns to love. All their attempts to meet in the present day are thwarted, however, and soon Forster begins to suspect that something tragic has happened to Wyler in the two years that separate them.

Though the premise behind “The Lake House” is an intriguing one, it is soon engulfed in a series of twists and turns so dense you need a flow chart to figure them out. Ex-boyfriends, dying fathers, Jane Austen, a dog that’s somehow shared between Wyler and Forster, the death of a stranger who might or might not be Wyler, a mysterious box in the attic (of a house that very clearly doesn’t HAVE an attic), and the complete and utter disregard of paradox (not to mention Forster’s complete and utter disregard of Google, which could have probably told her in about three seconds exactly what happened to Wyler) are only the tip of the iceberg. The result is a thicket of a film, one that makes your eyeballs hurt.

It’s really sad, because it didn’t have to be that way. What could have been a simple little movie about magic and love instead throws everything at us but the kitchen sink, presumably in an attempt to make some profound statement about human attachment. In the process, “The Lake House” becomes so heavy that it eventually sinks like Atlantis, never to return.

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