Ralph Bakshi’s film of Robert Crumb’s underground comics character “Fritz the Cat” is a not particularly faithful rendering (thus the creator’s heated objections) of a counterculture icon who isn’t all that interesting in either representation in the first place. Cynical and misogynistic (not unlike most of Crumb’s underground work), the character only seems only appears be softened by the necessities of fleshing out the characters and situations into more than the faux anti-establishment placards through which his characters express Crumb’s rather tepid notions of cultural shock value.
To be honest, much of the satire is obvious, rendered on a juvenile level and dull (in keeping with the Crumb original): the depiction of police as pigs (obvious) who bumble through their useless version of law and order like an anthropomorphized Toody and Muldoon (juvenille) which results in predictably tiresome observations of the law as mindless fascists picking on innocents who are only looking to get high and laid. None of it is particularly interesting, with the film only notable as the first animated film to get the “dreaded” (so much so that it was the selling point of the film) X rating as if this were an immediate conferrer of noteworthy provocative content, when in fact, the film is rather weak kneed in exploring genuine groundbreaking material be it social, political or sexual. Not that “Fritz the Cat” doesn’t contain a wealth of sexual content that shatters decades of standards- both aesthetic and contextual -set by Walt Disney in feature animation; it features this is fairly generous portions, generally limited to frenzied gyrations as well as an abundance of large exposed breasts and buttocks (both a signature of the Crumb oeuvre, though thankfully we are spared any hardcore depictions of penetration), but this is simply meaningless prurience in the service a vacuum of significance and an absence of meritorious accomplishment. (Though for those whose aim fails to rise above the gutter, Bakshi’s contribution to the animation arts includes several graphic depictions of male urination, surely a cultural milestone that could have been flushed.) The film seems unfinished, under budgeted haphazard and often sloppily animated, padded with obvious filler, badly performed by ill-suited vocal actors (especially by the thinly voiced Skip Hinnant as Fritz) with an equally tinny soundtrack conveying zero aural density, and undercut by a confident assurance that a logically conceived narrative is less important than a self-deluding hipster attitude: in other words, a typical Ralph Bakshi production.
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