Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre

Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre

Film review by: Witney Seibold




            “Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre,” an animated film from the creators of the cult Saturday morning cartoon show “¡Mucha Lucha!,” may be noisy and colorful and frenetic – it was clear while I was watching it that I had not eaten nearly as much Lucky Charms and Jr. Mints as the filmmakers had likely wanted me to – but, at it’s heart, it’s a very earnest film that has a very genuine love of it’s subject matter. The film’s director, Eddie Mort, and its co-creator Lili Chin, are not merely using Lucha Libre as a set piece for various bits of violent animated mayhem, but actually seem to have a deep knowledge and understanding of the trappings and long rich history of the sport. Indeed, I saw this film with the director in attendance, and he, in an interview afterwards, called Lucha Libre a mixture of a sport and performance art. He may have stuffed his film with loud noisy kiddie action, monsters, and Professor Gorilla, but he managed to make it all sacred. That’s no small feat.


            A little explanation for those of you who are not familiar with Lucha Libre: Lucha Libre (literally “free wrestling”) is a ring wrestling form that originated in Mexico in about 1900 and is still popular today. The wrestlers don’t necessarily have to wear masks, but it’s become a symbol of the sport. Matches feature both técnicos (good guys) and rudos (bad guys), clearly delineating the given match’s power structure. Despite being “bad guys,” rudos rarely cheat, abiding by an unwritten wrestlers code. Lucha Libre differs from American pro wresting in that it’s much showier, and have much older and, some would say, prouder traditions.


            The most famous luchador was El Santo (1914-1984). El Santo was a household name in Mexico. He starred in over 50 films in the 1960s and ‘70s. If you have never seen one of El Santo’s films, I insist that you do. Every one of them is splashy, and El Santo frequently wrestles monsters and mobsters, always playing himself, and never removing his trademark silver mask.


            So, to “Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre.”


            Dragon Rojo Jr. (Armando Valdes-Kennedy) is trying to make a name for himself, and escape the shadow of his father, Dragon Rojo Sr. (Eduardo Antonio Garcia), a retired luchador who once enjoyed Santo-like fame with his two partners Doctor Blanco and Estrella Verde.


            Dragon Rojo Jr. is approached by a mysterious stranger (Matt Danner), and is asked, á la “Seven Samurai,” to protect the stranger’s secluded Mexican village from a group of marauding bandits. In this universe, all luchadores have sense of justice that is part of their DNA, so he accepts, and proceeds to assemble a team of other luchadores to assist him. First is an American wrestler named Mr. Professional (Richard Green), who will serve as the group’s muscle. Next is Tsetse Fly (Candi Milo), a dwarf wrestler who will serve as the group’s brawler. Along with Tsetse Fly comes the buxom Sopresa (Ruth Livier), that rare breed of female luchador who will serve as the groups “surprise.” Fifth and final is the Goth-club-dwelling Rayo X (the late Lux Interior, frontman for The Cramps), who has been banned from mainstream matches for being too brutal. He will serve as the group’s “ace.”




            The group prepares for their village onslaught by training with vicious cat people, and even by wresting dead versions of themselves. Eventually they arrive at the village they are to protect, and discover a horrible secret about the residents. They also find that the bandits are rogue “extreme” backyard-style luchadores, who have no sense of honor.




            Imagine if all the evens in the 207-minute “Seven Samurai” were hastily condensed into a noisy 72 minutes, then infused with a fast rockabilly musical score, and you’ll have a good idea as to this film’s pace. It careens along at a pace that would seem quick for most little kids on a breakfast cereal binge. The characters all shout their dialogue, and the camera zip-pans more frequently than the cameras in a Bollywood film. Events and characters are given the most rudimentary introduction, and then we’re onto the next thing. This makes the storytelling economical, but dizzying.




            The film was animated using Flash, meaning the character’s movements were a bit robotic at times, and the strange jerkiness that comes with computer animation is sadly present. After a while, though, once your eye has become accustomed to it, it becomes less of an issue, and the film’s Tartakovsky-equse design begins to take a front seat. That’s Genndy Tartakovsky (“Samurai Jack”), not Andrei Tarkovsky (“Solaris”).


            “Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre,” is really fun. While it did hurt my eyeballs at times, like I said, it clearly has a respectful and knowledgeable approach to its subject matter. The luchadores in this film are not cheap, bland facilitators of mayhem, like, say the ninja turtles, or the Power Rangers. They are champions of justice, and are clearly delineated by the long traditions of their sport. No Johnny-come-latelys are they.


            The surf-guitar and psychobilly music were also a nice touch. If anyone out there can track down a soundtrack album to this film, let me know.

Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 7:26 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Los Campeones is at last available on DVD! http://www.amazon.com/campeones-lucha-libre-Artist-Provided/dp/B0057O6ICI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1317145422&sr=8-2 We’d love if you added your review to the Amazon page.


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