Nacho Libre, an unacknowledged, broadly comic remake of Rocky, is a real surprise. The film, a ludicrous comedy dealing with Mexican professional wrestling, is suffused not only with Christian imagery but with Christian ideas as well. It is full of religious faith and expresses it with surprising and pleasing lightness.
The protagonist, Ignacio (Jack Black) is very religious, having been brought up in a Mexican orphanage run by Catholics. His father, he says, was a Catholic and his Mother a Lutheran, and they decided to stop trying to convert each other and get married. And then they died, which is how he ended up in the orphanage. As the film begins, he is working there as a cook.
While talking with a beautiful young nun named Encarnacion (Incarnation), Ignacio tells her that the monks at the orphanage don’t respect him: "They think I don’t know a buttload of crap about the Gospel—but I do!"
And when he decides to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a professional, tag-team wrestler, he becomes very concerned when he learns that his partner has not been baptized. "I believe in science," the dirty, disheveled, slackjawed young man says, and that claim has never sounded more ridiculous. Later, Ignacio takes care of the problem by sneaking up behind him with a bowl of water and baptizing him.
Throughout the film, Ignacio frequently is shown wearing a cross necklace, and he and Sister Encarnacion both frequently make the sign of the cross over themselves.
With the money from his first fight, he buys delicious, healthy salads for all the children at the orphanage, who have been living on repulsive bean stew.
Ignacio has to keep his job a secret from the others at the monastery, because, as he notes, "It is in the Bible, not to wrestle your neighbor." Yet this is not depicted as hypocritical on his part, nor as excessive legalism on the part of the church; instead it is simply shown as a perfectly natural case of conflicting goals.
In search of worldly power, however, in the form of not being a hopelessly bad fighter, Ignacio goes against his beliefs at the behest of his partner, and eats eagle eggs because they will give him magic power.
Naturally, they don’t work at all, and the boys end up getting beat up by their next few opponents, including a couple of females.
The turning point for Ignacio comes in a conversation with Encarnacion, which the film handles quite seriously. Encarnacion tells him, "If you fight for something noble, or someone who needs help, only then will God bless you in battle." Up until this point, Ignacio has been fighting solely in order to gain fame and fortune, which have proven elusive, to say the least.
The very next scene shows Ignacio praying in the sanctuary, asking God to guide him. His prayer (heard in voiceover) is rather awkwardly expressed, and he accidentally starts his clothes on fire by knocking over a prayer candle, which returns the film to its main comic tone.
On the eve of the most important fight of his life, the one that could establish him as true professional, Ignacio gives an inspired speech: "Tonight I will fight the seven strongest men in town—maybe the world. And I will win, because our heavenly father will be in the ring with me. And he and I will win 10,000 pesos. And with it, I will buy the orphans a big bus, to go on trips to parks, and places like that. I’m serious!"
Throughtout this scene and espcially noticeably as he walks away with determined steps, Ignacio’s clothing beautifully illustrates the film’s point about using worldly things in order to do God’s will: from the waist down are his flashy wrestling tights, and from the waist up are his monk’s robes, the bottom half having been burned off when they were set afire in the sanctuary.
The fire, of course, is well known as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, thus adding further religious imagery to the scene.
Before the climactic big fight, we find out that Ignacio’s former partner, Esqueleto, has become a Christian. They pray together, at Esqueleto’s suggestion, and Esqueleto in fact leads the prayer.
This is all done in a suitably zany way fitting in with the film’s comedic tone, yet throughout all the humor the film shows a strong and abiding respect for Christianity.