Less mean-spirited but just as racist and unfunny as Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess’ Nacho Libre proves to be a modest step up from the director’s prior cult hit thanks to Jack Black, whose quirky, compassionate humanism gives this culturally insensitive, farcically flat film its empathetic heart. Working from a screenplay co-written with wife Jerusha and School of Rock scribe Mike White, Hess continues his fascination with deriding Hispanics, here the primary target being Esqueleto (Héctor Jiménez), a skeletal Mexican thief who – as the peculiar sidekick to monk-turned-professional wrestler Nacho (Black) – serves as the punchline for visual jokes about his big butter-smeared lips and emaciated frame. It’s a line of blinkered humor also seen in verbal gags in which words such as “puppies” are transformed into “poopies” by actors’ caricatured Mexican accents, as well as Hess’ sub-Wes Anderson symmetrical compositions which, in their studied meticulousness, appear to mock everyone (save for some cute kids) contained within. Laughs are wrung from neither the masked Nacho’s incompetent in-ring attempts to win food money for the orphans he tends, nor from his budding romance with the beautiful but devout (and anti-wrestling) Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera), with Nacho Libre’s every ridiculous scenario (including one involving Peter Stormare and a magical eagle egg) more amusing in theory than in practice. Still, the director mercifully avoids acting as cruelly to Nacho as he did to Napoleon, in large part because the superb Black refuses to allow his portly character to be merely an object of easy ridicule. His idiosyncratic out-there antics tempered by a measure of sincere altruism and benevolence, Black once again confirms his deft ability to balance ludicrous flailing and flopping with affecting emotional earnestness. In doing so, he proves to be the choice sirloin steak center of Hess’ otherwise crass chips-and-salsa comedy.