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ĦEl Presidente!
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by Jay Seaver

"I'm treating this like a real movie because I saw it at a festival."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: "ĦEl Presidente!" is probably not for you. Sure, that's true of most films that aren't built in a studio laboratory with the intention of selling it to as many people as possible. Even with that said, "ĦEl Presidente!" seems to be made for a tiny audience - just how many fans of the Incredibly Strange Wrestling promotion are there, and how many of them are going to drop money on a DVD that is more story than action?

That story is fanciful: On the island of Cabo San Luchas (if that name doesn't amuse you a little, jump to the next review now), where pro wrestling is not just unscripted but a lifestyle, there is a city called Boys' Town where nearly the entire population is gay men. Boys' Town is about to elect a new Presidente, and the popular favorite is El Homo Loco. Upon seeing this news, The Oi Boy decides to run against him, aiming to expose him as a complete fairy, utterly failing to grasp that this is a huge part of his appeal. Still, he'll have help from unexpected quarters - Erika Kanine (Leanne Borghesi), the cackling wicked-witch type who lives on a castle on the hill, has a video that she claims will expose El Homo Loco as a complete fraud, while his new campaign manager, Jacqueline Smart (Beth Trifilo) is clearly in the special interests' pockets. And how does the secret romance between the assistant at Channel 69 (Jamin Barton) and Snackette #1 (Amber Clisura), one of the scantily-clad sidekicks of The Snackmaster (who resembles a giant frankfurter), fit into everything?

I don't follow even wrestling's more popular promotions very closely, let alone Incredible Strange Wrestling, so I don't know how or if ĦEl Presidente! fits into ISW's storylines. There's something strangely logical about one of these outfits doing a movie; wrestling shows are basically soap operas whose plots turn on what goes on in the ring, so why not do the occasional story and invent a setting where the wrestling ring is an accepted means of dispute mediation? It's unusual, but not that strange idea.

The problem, of course, is that in wrestling, the stories are used to set up the matches - they're a way to give the audience a little emotional investment before the action starts. That the stories are ludicrous and the grapplers' acting is just good enough to orate into a microphone is easily forgivable because everyone involved knows that's beside the point. ĦEl Presidente! is maybe an hour long, but it's got just one or two action scenes. To put it mildly, that's not exactly playing to the cast's strengths, so the rest is bad acting (even the folks credited with normal names rather than their wrestling personae are obviously rather inexperienced) and obvious jokes.

And yet, the film does have a sort of bizarre charm. The characters and setting are so cartoonish as to dispel any need whatsoever for believability, and even if the performances aren't polished, they're weirdly earnest: El Homo Loco is so utterly ridiculous, from his costume which combines a tutu and a luchador's mask to his unassuming dimness, as to be oddly charming. It can also be sort of stunning in its tastelessness, and not just for the parade of gay stereotypes. Take a sequence where El Homo Loco tours Doctor Gorilla's free clinic. On the one hand, I defy you not to at least chuckle at a medical staff of gorillas (or, you know, guys in gorilla suits); on the other hand - the Owen Hart Center for Sports Medicine? More than a bit tacky.

But, for fans of Incredibly Strange Wrestling, that's probably just what the gorilla doctor ordered.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15959&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/07/07 21:52:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2007 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Jeremy Solterbeck

Written by
  Anne Cook
  Jeremy Solterbeck

  El Homo Loco
  The Oi Boy
  The Snackmaster
  Jello Biafra

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