The Austin Chronicle

DVD Watch

Reviewed by Nora Ankrum, July 22, 2005, Screens

Fritz the Cat

Universal/UA, $14.95

1972's Fritz the Cat, based on one of Robert Crumb's earliest characters, doesn't exactly survive the test of time and was admittedly off-base to begin with – Crumb famously hated the movie and killed Fritz off in a subsequent comic. But that didn't diminish the film's popularity, and here it is, as ballsy as ever, on a DVD boasting few extras, as if the first animated movie ever to warrant an X-rating needn't prove itself any further. In the film, Fritz shirks his studies at NYU to go out and "dig the world," which means smoking as much pot as possible, banging as many chicks (foxes, actually) as he can, and skipping his exams to discuss "the race issue" with the black crows in the seedy part of town. Meant as a satire of the Sixties, this attempt to poke fun at privileged white kids ends up mostly as an excuse to see what animals will look like with boobies and erections – not an unworthwhile endeavor – and often highlights the privileged-white-kid assumptions of the filmmakers themselves. The film's tired stereotypes are frustrating (the cops are bumbling pigs), as is its weird comedic timing: Some of the funniest scenes run too long, losing their punch along the way. Still, you can't go through life without seeing the movie's classic scene – a tangle of anthropomorphized animals having a pot-fueled orgy in a bathtub – and if you're a fan of director Ralph Bakshi, the background animation hints at that great gritty urban feel he later achieved in American Pop. But the film's real significance is that it introduced the world to adult animation: "They treat it like a film," Bakshi noticed of his audience. "This means we can make War and Peace in animation." The excitement over what Fritz meant for animation largely excused its clumsiness. Funnyworld writer Michael Barrier wrote that "It has the energy of a good idea behind it, and that is enough for it to be outstanding at a time when most animated cartoons are made out of habit, or for a quick buck." Unfortunately, a quick buck seems all Universal's concerned about with this DVD, which merely includes a trailer and the options to watch in French or Spanish, rather than capitalizing on the most interesting thing about Fritz – his legacy.

Also Out Now

The Chronicles of Narnia (Home Vision Entertainment): Prepare yourself for the upcoming live-action Chronicles with this new three-disc set of the beloved animated versions of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian & the Voyage of the Dawn Treader; and The Silver Chair. Extras are plentiful but kid-oriented, including interactive games and a recipe for Turkish Delight, which is nothing like afternoon delight.

Love at First Bite (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer): This is one of those movies you know intimately but never actually watched all at once; it played seemingly every Sunday afternoon on various cable channels throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties. I always thought Billy Zane was in it, but he's not – now you, too, don't have to wait for a random cable sighting to clear up your own misconceptions about the movie. Just get the DVD!

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