Posts Tagged ‘ jack black ’

Nacho Libre

Jack_Black_Nacho_Libre

What do you get when you cross a Christian Brother, with Mexican masked wrestling, a Skinny Sidekick, and a nun which this brother is attracted to?

You get the life of Nacho. He dreams of becoming a pro luchador, for the fame and glory the title possesses. He also wants to help the orphans too, and of course impress the Sister Encarnación. Unfortunately, going pro is a bit harder than anticipated, and believe it or not, the church looks down upon the violent sport.

Will Nacho succeed in his quest for fame and food for orphans? Only through his stretchy pants and the Lucha mask will we find out.

Things I Liked

Nacho has a heart to serve the orphans which live at his parish. While a bit of what he does is for the glory, it is clear throughout the film his heart lies in making it possible for the orphans to live a better life.

What is a hero without a sidekick? For Nacho, not much. Esqueleto is that sidekick. He is loyal as a dog, and honestly, portrayed not to be much smarter than one. When everyone abandons Nacho in his quest, his friend sticks with him and provides words which encourage Nacho to continue on and persevere.

Things I Didn’t Like

One of the foremost things I did not like was Nacho does things which are wrong, to help “the greater good”. That good being the orphans. He lies, steals, cheats, and breaks his oath in fighting in the wrestling matches. He isn’t a hero we should admire. He pride himself in gags and passing gas. He is rude with food and possesses poor manners, if any at all. Immature, boisterous, rebellious, and crude. Nacho is all of these things.

Then comes in Sister Encarnación, and things get, quite frankly, grossly sticky in terms of innuendo and tension. Nacho is infatuated with the nun, and asks her personal questions which are grossly uncomfortable. He displays his body in front of her, especially his gluteus maximus, and talks about breaking their solemn vows to run away and start a family. In addition to that, at a party an aggressive woman chases Esqueleto in order to love him. We see him being dragged across the floor to her.

The violence in this film dips to the grade school level. Crotch shots, hair pulling, biting, and other forms of slapstick beat up Nacho and his sidekick quite soundly. Early in the film, we see two men tussle in the dirt like school boys over some chips. A man is smacked on the head with a cello… Overall the violence can be described as a crudely twisted humour which is meant to be funny, but winds up just losing the match. This movie is gross- and that grossness is meant to be funny? Nacho eats a raw eagle egg. Or at least tries. He snorts food out of his nose, he accentuates the fact he is overweight, and more.

The dirty language in this flick includes a lot of implied cursing, but it is never actually spoke. A man is called a douche, boyish insults fly constantly, and trash talk is exchanged in the ring.

Closing thoughts

With any Jack Black movie you can pretty much expect the following: Crass slapstick humour, a bumbling hero, and a weak message.

Indeed, we find all of these in this movie too. I watched this at the recommendations of some adult friends, who guaranteed me it was “Hilarious”. Expecting something different than what I had watched earlier (School of Rock), and knowing the rich culture behind Mexican Free Fighting, I thought this would be more mature, more refined.

I was wrong.

Nacho Libre is a  crude comedy which dabbles in just enough innuendo to remain “harmless”, yet imply exactly what is meant to be conveyed. Ridiculous half naked fat stunt men slam, smack, and bite each other in clearly fake wrestling matches, meant to be funny I assume… And the “hero” is given justification for stealing and breaking his oath for the “greater good”.

The little light in the move is, as I have mentioned, the care about the orphans. But that light is dim compared to the rest of the film.

So what’s the point of the movie? I’m not sure really, but I’m calling this one pinned. Pinned by the depths of  gross humor, the crude sexual jargon, and immature violence. Don’t waste your Libre (freedom) on this film, or at least, know that is is not funny as the fans make it out to be.

Advertisements

Kung Fu Panda 2

“You guys see that? It’s called being awesome.”

The big fat panda is at it again. This time, Po and the Furious Five must stop Shen, a commanding and revengeful peacock, from developing a weapon that can defeat even kung fu masters. But the battle gets personal when Po realizes Shen was there the night Po’s parents abandoned him as a baby. Po sets out to save the art of kung fu – and conquer his fears about his past.

When I heard Dreamworks had released a sequel to Kung Fu Panda – aptly named Kung Fu Panda 2 – I was optimistic. I enjoyed the first movie because of its clean content, but the story was shallow. I was hopeful that the sequel would have a deeper story while maintaining the clean bill of health.

Amazingly, that’s what I got. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a riot. I laughed for the first 2/3rds and cried for the last 1/3rd, all the while thoroughly enjoying the wild action sequences. The film won my heart and instantly found a place on my list of favorite movies. Here’s why.

The Good

The movie employs the overused premise of a child discovering they are adopted and setting out to find the truth about their past. I generally dislike such stories because of the bad light they cast on the adoptive parents. However, I felt this film handled it tactfully and wholesomely. Po comes to realize the beauty of adoption and the love he has for his adoptive father. His adoptive father is caring and supportive, and the two’s final scene is heartwarming.

Like its predecessor, this film has very low content. There is only a smattering of crude humor; there is no gritty language, immodesty, or romance. There is a lot of exaggerated action-violence, but it is not graphic. Even the bad guys show some restraint; when Shen orders his captain to shoot, the toughened wolf refuses because his own men are in the line of fire.

As an added treat, Kung Fu Panda 2 far surpasses the first film for artistic competence. The red-gold color scheme is rich, the Asian setting is vibrant, and the character design adds depth to the story by giving each character a strong visual presence. Of particular interest is the use of “cut paper” animation, a simplified style reminiscent of Asian art, that is mixed with the standard 3D modeling. To top it off, an evocative score brings out the emotion of the story.

The Bad

Like the original, Kung Fu Panda 2 features Asian-esque mysticism. The primary focus in this film is on “inner peace.” Kung fu master Shifu tells Po that once he achieves inner peace, he will be able to harness the energy of the universe. A meditative ritual accompanies this teaching. Po gains inner peace by [spoiler!] coming to terms with his past, and he is then able to use the meditative move to defeat Shen’s army.

In addition, there is some talk of destiny, although it is not as heavy as in the first film. A soothsayer is consulted a few times. Also, the yin-yang symbol appears fairly frequently. Thankfully, there is none of the accompanying theology; good defeats evil, rather than coming into “balance” with it.

While it is minor and perhaps unintentional, the film could be seen as having a message against the use of firearms. Shen takes his parents’ discovery of fireworks and uses the firepower to design weapons for evil purposes. Shifu tells Po that the weapons must be stopped or they will destroy the art of kung fu. While Shen’s use of the weaponry is despicable, it is worth noting that firearms are not necessarily inherently evil themselves. Whether such weaponry should have ever been developed is a complicated subject that might make an interesting discussion point after watching the movie.

In Conclusion

Kung Fu Panda 2 isn’t perfect. The mysticism is something that needs to be approached with discernment. But, thankfully, that’s about the only element of this film I need to worry about. The rest of the journey is wild, vibrant, and clean; it’s just as fun as the first while being a great deal more emotionally engaging. Kung Fu Panda 2 found a place on my list of favorite movies, and if Dreamworks’ continues this trend, it’s likely their future films will also find a home on my shelf. I can’t wait to find out.

Kung Fu Panda

“There once was a legendary warrior whose legendary kung fu skills were the stuff of legends…”

From his humble noodle kitchen, chubby panda Po dreams of being a kung fu warrior. When he has a chance to see kung fu master Oogway chose the “Dragon Warrior,” Po will do anything to get a good view – including blasting over the wall on a chair strapped to fireworks. When his homemade rocket crashes into the middle of the arena, Po wakes up to find Oogway pointing at him. Oogway claims Po is destined to be the Dragon Warrior, but his successor Shifu is sure it’s a mistake. Shifu takes it upon himself to pummel the panda until he quits, but the return of China’s most feared enemy forces both master and student to reconsider. Can an overweight panda truly be the Dragon Warrior?

I’ll be the first to admit that Dreamwork’s Kung Fu Panda is a shallow movie. The loose storyline is predominately composed of exaggerated drama and unrealistic action sequences that revel in corny kung fu “awesomeness.” The characters have little depth, the story has no lasting morals, and the most iconic part of the animation is Shifu’s twitching ears. The movie is ridiculous and pointless – and that’s exactly why I like it. Read on for my reasoning.

The Legendary

Kung Fu Panda’s biggest plus is its clean bill of health. There is no romance and no immodesty, and the closest thing to language is one slang use of the word “suck.” The only spots are a few brief instances of fairly mild crude humor. The result is a great “harmlessly fun” movie; it’s one of my favorite films to watch when I need something “brainless.” I can have fun without worrying about being bombarded with objectionable content.

Po learns a fairly typical lesson of “be yourself.” While the main theme of the movie isn’t very strong or memorable, there are a few positive subthemes. It’s shown how everyone can succeed if they embrace the challenge, and true greatness doesn’t ultimately come from skill or any “secret powers.” Additionally, the authority of the kung fu masters is well-respected; even the greatest warriors fail when they go against their master’s wishes, while homely Po is able to succeed by dedicating himself to Shifu’s training.

While the animation and character design are solid but not particularly memorable, the music of the film is lively and fun, a unique cross of Western action music and Asian themes. The Chinese scenery and costume is also lovely.

The Wimpy

While it is to be expected with a movie based on kung fu, the violence of the film is worth mentioning. There is almost constant kung fu action, some of which involves vicious moves like smashing opponents through the sides of buildings. Ultimately, no one gets hurt or even draws blood; [spoiler!] the one death comes from a mystical move in which the enemy apparently vanishes in a wave of pure energy. While I do not find this exaggerated violence disturbing, it may be of concern for families with younger children.

The film also has a mystic overtone, which is not surprising given the Chinese setting. The characters practice some rituals reminiscent of Asian religions, and talk is made of harmony, inner peace, and similar concepts. However, no reference is made of gods or real-world religions, except for a brief appearance of a yin-yang symbol. The most religious aspect of the film is the emphasis on destiny; the characters stubbornly insist that it is the Dragon Warrior’s destiny to defeat the feared enemy, and no one else is allowed to even try.

While it is not the main theme of the movie, Po does argue with his father about his future. Po’s father insists that maintaining the noodle business is Po’s destiny, but Po ignores his father’s wishes by leaving the noodle cart behind when he goes to see the ceremony. Ultimately, however, it’s an accident that Po gets roped into kung fu, and his father stays out of the picture until the end, when he also embraces Po’s destiny.

And the winner is…

Where Kung Fu Panda lacks in substance, it makes up for with innocent fun. It’s a film I enjoy watching semi-frequently to keep me entertained while working on projects at my desk, and I appreciate that I can watch a fun movie without cringing over the content. While the mysticism needs to be recognized as false, the overall tone of the film is exaggeratedly playful. If you have a good sense of humor or just need an evening off, you might have fun with this one.

Just remember – Po’s not a big fat panda. He’s the big fat panda.

Advertisements