Fritz the Cat Review

Taking his overt, strange desires of the flailing mind to the high’s cinema has to offer is a worrying, confusing time for Robert Crumb. His work would be profiled later in the fantastic documentary, Crumb, but the underground comic book artist has strange failings that come to life in Fritz the Cat. An adaptation of his comic book that showed the violent, passionate side of his mind in gruelling detail. It is not fit for consumption, and his anthropomorphised characters riff on the cultural offerings of the 1960s with disdain for the world around them yet a deep connection to the few topics they can hold dear.

There is at least a nice blend between Crumb and Bakshi. While they are not the most identical of artists, they do appear to have more than enough in common to make a solid translation of the comic series. How well it translates, though, is up to those who have read the work to decide. As an art piece on its own, there is a mixed bag indeed. While not quite embodying the form and style of this eponymous feline, Skip Hinnant does a good enough job here. His voice is whiny and annoying, but that does feel relevant to the material and script offered. Unfortunately, though, its perspective of life and the world around Fritz isn’t all that interesting.

We have seen the delicate criticisms of the swinging 60s, the cultural clashes between the hippie movers and bigshot shakers, but Fritz the Cat feels neither engaged nor interested in those topics. Instead, it aims low and never takes flight. We are stuck at the bottom of the barrel with a character who scrapes it all too much. To the credit of Bakshi, it is not his fault. Characters can only go so far when the creator’s original vision was mired by value and respect, we can feel for them only so much considering their attitudes. Bakshi paints a decent landscape, animates it well, but considering the intentions of Fritz the Cat that Crumb has attached to the character, the general depravity of it all, simply makes it difficult to care for him. Even then, the uncaring attitude and sleazebag mentality is a part of Crumb, and translating that to the big screen is impossibly difficult.

Crumb would later muse on the film itself, saying that Bakshi’s vision was “confused” and while there is truth to that, there is something to be said of the confusion found in the source material also. Capturing Fritz the Cat in its relatively meek glory is surely difficult, not because the character is complex, but there is no way of adapting the relatively grim thought process to the big screen. Even if it were done with the narrative at its heart, there is still no real degree of interest in what Crumb has to say. Visuals only take us so far, and they are far enough for amicable conclusions to the life of this over-sexualised cat, but they linger as uncomfortable, not just as a concept, but a concerning rendition of Crumb’s mind.

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