On paper, this fable set in the bizarro world of Mexican wrestling (Lucha Libre) may look out of place competing with the big dogs of summer. Lucha doesn't quite have the fan base of, say, NASCAR. But that may change once the world lays eyes on the topless splendor that is Jack Black in spandex pants, from which his ample belly spilleth over. ''This movie's been all about digging down, exposing myself in ways I never have before,'' says Black. Or in ways that any actor has, for that matter: Black plays a Mexican cook who hits the wrestling circuit to funnel his prize money to needy orphans. Think School of Rock with body slams instead of slammin' solos.
While shooting on location in Oaxaca, Mexico, the filmmakers soon discovered that, to the locals, wrestling was no laughing matter. The challenge was to find the funny without being offensive. ''Wrestlers are their superheroes, their icons, their movie stars,'' says co-writer/producer Mike White (School of Rock). ''You see their world at a weird angle, but at the same time you want to live inside that world. You want [the film] to be a celebration as much as it is funny and absurd.''
Black trained with a wrestling coach in L.A. before showing up with an arsenal of lethal moves, including his signature: the anaconda squeeze. ''Basically, I'll jump on you, squeeze you with my legs and arms, and you will go down,'' says Black, who himself went down when he cut his face open on a metal folding chair while tackling an opponent. By the end, though, Black was feeling muy macho. Harrison Ford, watch out. ''I did so many stunts, I did other people's stunts,'' Black says. ''Full-time stuntman. That's where it's at.''