‘Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado’ review: All signs look good for Netflix’s fond look back at the TV astrologer

Raised in Puerto Rico, Mercado started as a dancer and actor in telenovelas before fundamentally stumbling onto his astrological forecasts shtick in 1969, wearing flowing robes and jewelry that made Liberace look definitely modest. His gender-nonconforming exuberance proved scant impediment to wild success even amid an era of rampant homophobia, the kind that made him an object of satirists but nevertheless a personality welcomed in to millions of homes for the duration of Latin America and across the globe.

That winning profile would be the fun part of the story, but a darker side emerges, regarding a dispute between Mercado and his longtime manager, Bill Bakula, who’s among those interviewed. Having fundamentally signed his name away (naively, Mercado and those near to him say), Mercado ended up in a protracted legal battle, one which explains his mysterious disappearance from the airwaves and hermit-like existence when directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch got him to cooperate for the film.

Even in his late ’80s (not that he’d admit it), Mercado, who died last year, remained the consummate showman, describing himself as “a force of nature.” It’s as if he is thrilled to have audience again, even if the stage has shifted from the one he occupied.

Mercado was an amazing character, but so adept at fending off inquiries with wry one-liners and carefully rehearsed lines that the filmmakers never actually penetrate his ornate shell. Questions about his sexuality, being an LGBTQ icon or his beliefs (his act included a kind-of mixture of religion and New Age spirituality) were politely dismissed or evaded, like nothing can knock him off his relentlessly upbeat message.

The appreciation of Mercado ergo stems largely from those reminiscing in what he supposed to them, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, who — in exactly what do only manifest as a timely crossover with “Hamilton” — was granted an audience with Mercado. Miranda describes him as “an oasis” in Spanish-language TV,” and brought along his equally starstruck father, becoming emotional spending time in Mercado’s presence.

Though it’s discussed primarily in the context of the lawsuit, “Mucho Mucho Amor” (Mercado’s signature sign-off) doesn’t enter much detail about Mercado’s later association with phone-in services, and the potential of TV ventures like the Psychic Friends Network to exploit desperate people.

A central takeaway is not only about the man but the warm nostalgia that he represents — the memories, as Miranda among others recall, of grandmothers hushing them all through the minutes he came on daily, running through the Zodiac with horoscopes filled up with a persistent sense of hope.

When the documentary played at the Sundance Film Festival, Costantini told CNN that Mercado was “like an Oprah, Mr. Rogers and a little bit of Liberace mixed in.” If “Mucho Mucho Amor” does little to puncture that grand mystique, it is because the force of nature that was Walter Mercado wouldn’t have it every other way.

“Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado” premieres July 8 on Netflix.