"The Calamari Wrestler" (Mania.com)

By:John Sinnott
Review Date: Sunday, January 07, 2007

Every once in a while a movie comes along that just defies description.  One such film is The Calamari Wrestler.  What can you say about movie that has man-sized sea creatures fighting each other in a boxing ring?  While wearing wrestling boots no less.  Decidedly odd and a little off kilter, this film was actually a lot of fun to watch.  

The film opens on Taguchi, a young pro-wrestler who in the ring finishing off opponent to win the national title.  As he raises his hard won belt over his head though, it is snatched out of his hands by a giant squid.  A quick battle ensues, where Taguchi discovers that it is impossible to put a Full Nelson on someone who doesn't have bones.  

Angered over his humiliation, Taguchi wants to fight the squid, whom the press has dubbed the Calamari Wrestler.  The wrestling federation's crooked owner won't allow Calamari to wrestle unless he agrees to throw the fight, something he'd never do.  

While this is going on, Taguchi's finance, Miyako, gets a strange feeling whenever she sees the Calamari Wrestler.  He reminds her of her old boyfriend, wrestler Kan-ichi Iwata, who died a few years ago.  Could this cephalopod be the famed fighter in a new body?  

Things get even stranger when the wrestling match is finally set up and Taguchi enters the ring.  No longer a man, the champion has transformed himself into an octopus.  It's a battle for the ages as a giant squid fights a giant octopus for the Japan Super Pro Wrestling title belt.  

No one can accuse this low budget film of being great, or even very good.  The dialog is forced, the plot is absurd, and the acting only occasionally rises to the level of mediocre.  Taking that all into account, this was a fun movie.  The secret is that the film is played straight; they don't try to add a lot of camp or slapstick to the film.  No one seemed to think it's strange that a huge squid is walking down the street, or that he'd want to be a professional wrestler.  There aren't a lot of overt jokes thrown in; it's the situations themselves that are humorous.  The scene were Calamari is trying to buy some sardines in a fish market is a riot not because of anything that's said, just because it's so odd.  The same can be said for the love scene between Calimari and Miyako.  I'll leave it at that and let you imagine the rest.

Though a lot of the production values of this movie are a bit less than average, the one thing that they did a splendid job on were the costumes.  These were just great.  The foam rubber and latex creations looked impressive and held up to a lot of abuse.  The wrestling scenes were well staged too, and really tested the limits of the costumes.  

While a lot of people will watch this film and just not get it, fans of Japanese giant monster films or Mexican wrestling movies will get a kick out of it.  The film is played straight, not for laughs, and that makes it all the more humorous.  Probably the strangest movie I've watched this year, this gets my recommendation.

Mania Grade: B+
Show Grade: B+
Disc Grade: B
Reviewed Format: DVD
Rated: Unrated
Cast: Kana Ishida, Osamu Nishimura
Director: Minoru Kawasaki
Extras: making of featurette, still gallery, two trailers, two TV spots, and a music video
Suggested Retail: $14.98