The Austin Chronicle

Tales of the Rat Fink

Not rated, 78 min. Directed by Ron Mann. Voices by Ann-Margret, Steve Austin, Billy F. Gibbons, John Goodman, Matt Groening, Jay Leno, Dick Smothers, Tom Smothers, Bill Weinstein, Robert Williams, Brian Wilson.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 15, 2006

The career of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth is a perfect fit for pop-culture documentarian Mann, whose previous work includes titles such as Comic Book Confidential, Grass, and Go Further, the movie about sustainable lifestyles that stars advocate Woody Harrelson. Roth, the California gearhead and artist, springs to life here in ways never achieved on paper by Tom Wolfe in his first book of essays, Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. Mostly that's due to the film's massive use of fabulous animation (by Michael Roberts) and colorful voice work (from the likes of Leno, Ann-Margret, the Smothers brothers, Austin, Gibbons, Wilson, Groening, and narrator Goodman as the well-chosen voice of Big Daddy, who died shortly before this film was made). From Roth's customized dragsters to his conceptual cars built from the newly invented fiberglass material to his creation of the iconic Rat Fink character and other cartoon monsters and the evolution of his comic book, T-shirt, and model-car empires, Roth was the seminal garage artist of the latter half of the 20th century. Tales of the Rat Fink is an ebullient survey of Roth's life that revs along with the zest a souped-up hot rod. (Expanded from the SXSW Film Festival 2006 review.)

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