Jack Black in a triumph of naturlistic acting YES: Jack Black does a ridiculous Mexican accent.

NO: This is pretty much the premise. All the other actors are Mexican’s with varying accents. Calling the film racist because one character has a silly accent would be to condemn Peter Sellars in The Pink Panther, not to mention Steve Martin or Alan Arkin*.

YES: The film portrays Mexico as a poverty stricken, almost third world country – at odds with the actual reality.

NO: The film is clearly shy of any kind of reality, playing its setting for laughs. What is more, the lack of technology in the film suggests an out-of-time setting, a mythical idea of a Mexico (and Oaxaca State) that has more in common with Speedy Gonzales cartoons than a real Mexico**.

YES: Nearly all the characters are stupid. Thus the film characterises Mexican’s as stupid.

NO: Not all the characters are stupid, and indeed Nacho’s own noble stupidity is the centre for much of the humour. The intelligence shown by the orphaned children, greater than that of the adults, not only suggests a smarter next generation but is not uncommon in what is essentially a kids film.

YES: Jared Hess’s direction of the film as stilted, and full of pregnant pauses somehow rubs off on Mexico itself, showing it to be a dull, slow-witted place.

NO: Where was this criticism of Napoleon Dynamite, shot in exactly the same style***?

My post Diversity Training assessment: No, Nacho Libre is not racist. Taken in and of itself perhaps it shows an outdated view of Mexico. But since the fun being picked lies squarely at the feet of the sole non-Mexican in the cast, and has a timelessness to it which seems less accusational than just fun. The gags are not at Mexico’s expense. Also it cannot be considered seperately from other recent cinematic views of Mexico, from the more objectional (but wholly different) Man On Fire, through Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien.

And it is very, very funny.

*Not in itself a bad thing.

**Again, potentially racist in themselves.

***Still a potentially good argument.