The Other Side of Animation: Fritz the Cat: The Movie Review

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WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!: There are major adult and sexual themes. Definitely do not watch this with kids that are younger. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

Yup, today we are going to dive into the creative, albeit crazy mind of one of the animation industry’s biggest names, Ralph Bakshi, and his first animated film, Fritz the Cat released in 1972. Directed by Ralph Bakshi himself, and based off the comic series by cartoonist Robert Crumb, Fritz the Cat is infamous for being the first animated film aimed directly at adults with the now-defunct X rating. During that period of time, the film was rather controversial with the themes it was covering. It was a financial success with a budget of one million dollars, and raked in a total of $90 million, making it one of the most profitable money-making indie films of all time. So, how does this film from 1972 age? Well, let’s find it out.

Instead of a sweeping three-part story, Fritz the Cat is about, well, Fritz the Cat, voiced by Skip Hinnant of The Electric Company fame. The overall movie is about his adventures with college life, sex, race relation, politics, and other themes that were prominent at that time period.

For the time, I can see why Fritz the Cat got so much acclaim. It was a daring piece of cinema. It’s an adult-only animated film that showed that not all animated films needed to be aimed at just children and families. It was pretty much the correct time to start experimenting with moviegoers since this was the era where Disney was not doing very well, and other animation studios came to fruition and made some memorable films that were both good and bad. The art style was also more adult, with what looks like an adult underground comic version of a Disney film with its talking animals and so on. The themes of the free love movement, race relations, religion, and politics are tackled, and for the time, this was very different since it was an animated film. It wasn’t some live-action low-budget exploitation flick, this was a hand-drawn animated feature with talking animals that represented the humans of said time. The overall cinematic experience paints a rather depressing image of a cynical impressionable time of the characters trying to find oneself and explore the world around them.

The animation is also pretty good for that time period. Don’t get me wrong, it still has its clunky/rough elements, but for a million-dollar budget, it looks solid. I enjoyed how the film didn’t really sound like it had a script. It felt like improvisational cinema. The actors may have had a script, but it all seemed very spontaneous. The way the characters talked, with the exception of Fritz’s rants at the beginning of pretentious college life, made it feel more natural in terms of the performances given.

Unfortunately, at least for me, the film is a major trainwreck when it comes to a flowing narrative and characters. Due to the story not really having a set path, and wanting to be this satirical take on all of these topics, the themes the film touches upon doesn’t have a satisfactory conclusion. As the movie went on, I found myself not caring about Fritz and his exploits. In fact, Fritz is a pretty unlikable character. Sure, I could see what was being brought up during each vignette, but at the same time, due to how the film is paced, I ended up losing interest. Even the ending, when you think Fritz would learn something from everything, he doesn’t. He started out as a hypocritical whiner that complained about how college life sucks, but then ends up acting like the very same people he hates just in order to bed the aloof female students. Speaking of aloof college students, the film does not paint college life in a very positive frame of mind. They make it feel like college kids are ostentatious and not very wise. They latch onto causes that they think is important and try to be philosophical with the cause, but don’t really think before they speak. The only character you follow and try to invest in is Fritz, and he is a pretentious, hypocritical, mean-spirited individual.

I know this film is labeled as a satirical take on events of the time, but Fritz the Cat is a mess. With an incoherent plot, unlikable characters, an unsatisfying ending, it isn’t a fully enjoyable film. Fritz the Cat needed focus and a better script to lead to a substantial end.  I will not discredit its place in history though, since that’s a bit nutty to do so. It would be like me saying that Akira didn’t do anything for Japanese animation or Final Fantasy VII didn’t change the mass appeal of Japanese-style RPGs here in the west. You don’t have to like them, but taking away their legacy is insulting. However, if you really want to see this X-rated film, well, there is nothing that I can do to stop you. It’s an interesting period piece of film making, but it doesn’t really hold up. There is a sequel to this film, but it doesn’t have Bakshi or the cartoon’s creator input at all, and it is one of the worst animated films I have ever seen. See Fritz the Cat as a curiosity, but there is no harm in seeing Bakshi’s other work like Wizards or American Pop. Well, Thanksgiving was upon us, so how about we check out a Thanksgiving-themed movie? I was thinking of maybe…Free Birds! Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Lackluster!