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El Rey de Rock ‘n’ Roll

Now that Kevin Costner, David Arquette and Christian Slater have joined the roll call via "3000 Miles to Graceland," you might figure any fun value inherent in Elvis impersonation is gonesville. Turns out, however, that ersatz Kings aren't quite ready to leave the building yet. Long-running novelty act/artiste Robert Lopez, aka El Vez, "the Mexican Elvis," proves a surprisingly complex and engaging mini-phenom in Marjorie Chodorov's "El Rey de Rock 'n' Roll." Vid-shot docu will comprise a diverting detour for fest/broadcast programmers attuned to Latino, musical, pop- and multicultural themes.

Now that Kevin Costner, David Arquette and Christian Slater have joined the roll call via “3000 Miles to Graceland,” you might figure any fun value inherent in Elvis impersonation is gonesville. Turns out, however, that ersatz Kings aren’t quite ready to leave the building yet. Long-running novelty act/artiste Robert Lopez, aka El Vez, “the Mexican Elvis,” proves a surprisingly complex and engaging mini-phenom in Marjorie Chodorov’s “El Rey de Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Vid-shot docu will comprise a diverting detour for fest/broadcast programmers attuned to Latino, musical, pop- and multicultural themes.

Lopez was an L.A. art gallery curator (and veteran of the punk band Zeroes) when he intro’d El Vez as a one-time-only party concept 10 years ago. Response was such that the act took on a life of its own, acquiring a live band (the Memphis Mariachis) and backup babes (the Lovely Elvettes).

Building on silly Elvis-hit spins (“Ain’t Nothin’ but a Chihuahua,” “In the Barrio”) to incorporate elaborate mock-Vegas stage shows and humorous yet heartfelt radical-politicking (recasting Elvis as Che Guevara and Cesar Chavez), “joke band” El Vez acquired as many post-modernist layers as auds cared to absorb.

Outre onstage, a savvy businessman (via international tours and El Vez merchandise) and shyly private gay man off, Lopez is as full of contrasts as his camp alter ego.

Well-shot perf segs, excerpted TV guest spots, and interviews (with various fans, co-workers and Latino academics) lend short feature more sustaining depth than you might expect from its seemingly one-joke subject.

El Rey de Rock 'n' Roll

Production: A Now or Never production. Produced, directed by Marjorie Chodorov.

Crew: Camera (color, video), Jennifer Lane, Euripides Nunez, Andrew Thomas, Chodorov; editor, Michael Lim; music, El Vez. Reviewed at Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, Feb. 24, 2001. Running time: 66 MIN.

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