Fritz the Cat (1972)
Directed by Ralph Bakshi

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * *

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Fritz the Cat, who resembles a middle-class Caucasian college student, becomes involved in a series of loosely connected adventures. Having first picked up some girls, with the help of a little trickery, Fritz takes them to a shabby apartment filled with his inebriated friends, where the lot of them, including an aardvark, have an orgy in a bathtub, until the police, two stupid pink pigs, force their way in and put an end to their fun. Later, deciding he should try to fit in with the more disadvantaged, but also more stylish, members of society, Fritz goes to a bar catering to crows, who represent African-Americans in the film, ingratiates himself with one of the establishment's patrons, steals a car, and starts a bloody and destructive riot. Again fleeing from the police, Fritz sets out for California accompanied by his girlfriend, but, having tired of her nagging, he abandons her along the way and becomes involved with a brutal revolutionary rabbit whose friends plan to blow up a power plant.

Although Ralph Bakshi's animated film Fritz the Cat is not particularly impressive either visually or narratively, it is entertaining, and while it is never clever or enthralling enough to impress the viewer in any profound way, it is filled with enough wit and energy to keep him engaged. The movie is not a masterpiece, but it is not a failure either.

None of the animation used in the film is remarkable. Some of it is amusing, but it is generally dull and frequently ugly. Somehow, the uneven, amateurish quality of the animation does, however, lend Fritz the Cat a subversive feel. The movie simultaneously celebrates and mocks popular youth culture of the United States in the early 1970s, and its crude visual style both connects it with that culture and distances it from the more carefully made movies being produced by the corporations against which much of the ire of many young persons was then directed. A large part of the film's success results from its ability, arising from this feel, to draw the viewer into this particular culture so that he is able to experience both its concerns and its failings.

Unfortunately, the attempts at humor made through the course of the movie are rarely hilarious, although many do include insightful observations. The director, for example, repeatedly reminds the viewer of the superficiality with which many of the beliefs prevalent among young white liberal intellectuals have been held (both then and now). Modelling his central characters on such persons, Bakshi mocks their hypocritical, unfelt displays of sympathy for the sufferings of other, non-white, members of American society. He shows the destructive consequences of many of these individuals' apparently well intended acts and exposes how obviously selfish their actions often can be, despite their claims that they are motivated by altruism. While many, or even most, of the director's observations are probably true, he rarely incorporates them into the film in such a way that he is able to make the viewer laugh. This is not to say that Bakshi has wholly failed, however. There are times when the movie is actually funny, and, even when it is not, it is, at the very least, entertaining.

Although Fritz the Cat it is hardly a tremendous success, it is a fun and occasionally clever satire.

Review by Keith Allen

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