Nacho Libre (HD-DVD) Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: PG (Action and crude humor and dialogue) Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1 Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH Time: 92 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2006 DVD Release Date: October 24, 2006 Movie Review Note: As I move into more HD-DVD reviews, I am cutting back on the length of my comments on the movie itself to deal more with the technical aspects of this new format. This will be done specifically on the catalog titles provided by Paramount. When they begin releasing titles day and date, I will spend more of the review on the merits (or lack thereof) of the title. Before you watch Nacho Libre, be advised that it’s a kids movie. Not knowing what I was going to see, and having only seen the trailer earlier in the summer, I was expecting a typical Jack Black picture with crude humor and vulgarities. What I was presented with was a very reserved Jack Black who did a great job of using his acting talent to bring us Ignacio, the monastery cook by day, Luchador by night. Ignacio’s monastery doubles as an orphanage where Ignacio prepares meals for the orphans, a meal that usually consists of the worst refried beans you’ve ever seen topped by a few pathetic tortilla chips. He has childhood dreams of being a famous Luchador, or wrestler, and gaining the prestige and wealth that goes along with it. Once a hot new nun (forgive me, Father, for that phrase) shows up at the monastery, Ignacio is compelled to woo her, as much as a monk can woo a nun. As he travels into town to pick up some tortilla chips, he is attacked by a homeless man, Esqueleto (Hector Jiminez), who he befriends and convinces to join his plan to wrestle and attain the high life. But should a man who has devoted his life to God and some orphans engage in such a pursuit? Therein lays the rest of the picture, as Ignacio goes on a journey of self discovery to do the right thing, not only for him, but for those he cares for. Nacho Libre came and went during this past summer’s onslaught of popcorn pics. While it’s not a bad picture by any means, Paramount and Nickelodeon may have dropped the ball in the advertising campaign. Since my friends and family know I do these reviews, they often ask what I’m working on. I now have a picture I can tell them to pop in for their kids, who will enjoy Black’s goofy facial expressions and fart jokes, as much as their parents will enjoy his sharp deliveries. The picture was directed by Jared Hess, the same guy who directed Napoleon Dynamite, so this may give you a better idea about the sensibilities of the story. There’s also a bunch of songs from Beck in the soundtrack, which was a very nice surprise. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. Thus, the HD-DVD discs are being displayed in 1080i for evaluation purposes. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. Nacho Libre is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and the HD DVD was encoded in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Since this is a brand new release, I was expecting a sharp and dynamic picture, but I was surprised to see that it actually wound up looking a bit soft. This is a compliment to the producers of this disc that even though they have the ability to make these HD discs super sharp, they are maintaining a presentation attitude that more closely resembles film than video. That being said, the disc still shows crisp lines and good detail (with some edge enhancement), especially in the scenes where Iganacio is riding his motor bike through the desert. The picture is colorful, almost to the point of over-saturation making the yellows and blues very dominant. I found it interesting that Ignacio’s wrestling outfit was a lighter shade of the sky in one scene. Black levels were very good showing detail in the darker scenes. Even though we are only about six months into this new format, the producers of these discs seem to be adapting to it to provide us with solid, natural looking pictures. I also had the SD DVD to compare and I found it to be very similar in terms of the saturation and color levels. The main differences between the two is the picture is just not as sharp as the HD version and there appears to be a greater amount of grain in the SD disc. Audio: The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection I watched the disc with the 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus track engaged. This was a very subtle and pleasing soundtrack that produced excellent highs and mids. Bass levels were good, but wound up being just a bit boomy in places. I was very impressed with the surround field from the soundtrack: there is a scene where there are animals present, and I looked down on the floor to see where those pesky chickens were. They sounded as if they were right in front of my seats. Panning effects were good showing good transitions across the fronts, and voices sounded clear and natural. The soundtrack on the SD disc was very similar, but it lacked the presence the DD+ track exhibited. The DD+ track was more immersive and produced a smoother sound, while the SD track sounded a bit flat. Bonus Material: With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG 2 unless otherwise noted. Audio commentary with Jack Black, Jared Hess and Mike White: or, dinner and a commentary with those same participants. The boys start off by ordering a fine Mexican meal and then dive into the movie while trying to spit out info about it in between. There’s dead space in the commentary with the participants saying “Yeah, that’s a great scene” or, “That was pretty funny” to break it up. Overall, it’s pretty boring unless you’re a huge fan of the participants. Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes (56:02): five behind-the-scenes featurettes dealing with the making of the picture and Jack Black hamming it up. There is not a lot of dialogue in the first one, mostly just video of the shoot, which is pretty entertaining. One of the Nickelodeon promos is included that gives us a history of Lucha Libre (or free fight), as well as some other behind the scenes shots and a Moviefone promo with Black and Jiminez. We learn that Black’s favorite buddy comedy is Silver Streak! Jack Sings! (8:16): these behind the scenes videos show Black rehearsing a couple of the tunes he performs in the movie, La Cancion De Ramses and La Cancion De Encarnacion. Deleted scenes: approximately ten minutes worth of deleted scenes, two dealing with Ramses, and the other with an extended scene where Ignacio and Esqueleto learn the way of the eagle. The latter is the most fun and bizarre. Promo spots (1:30): three TV spots highlighting different aspects of the movie. Photo Gallery: a bunch of shots from the picture and some behind-the-scenes as well. Theatrical Trailer (VC-1, 1.85:1, DD+) Other notes on this HD-DVD edition: - The A and B buttons that can be utilized on some HD-DVD titles do not appear to have any function on this title. - I use the on-screen display function extensively when doing reviews for time markers and audio and video formatting. This disc would disable several remote functions until I turned off the on-screen display. I have not noticed this issue on the HD discs from Warner’s or Universal. Conclusions: Once you wrap your mind around the idea that Nacho Libre is a kids film, you tend to enjoy it more. While there was a good amount of humor to it, many adults may find themselves chuckling rather than laughing out loud. The kids, however, will probably enjoy the heck out of it. While this is a good looking HD disc, it is by no means reference quality, but that’s okay, since these disc producers are finally getting the hang of giving us consistent quality reproductions without knocking our socks off.