Picks and Pans Review: American Pop

updated 04/06/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/06/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

With his saucy Fritz the Cat, explicit Heavy Traffic and racially controversial Coonskin, Ralph Bakshi has shown that he is to Walt Disney what Mick Jagger is to Tony Bennett. In a genre populated with cuddly forest creatures, he introduced unkempt, foul-mouthed and street-wise anti-heroes. His latest project portrays a family's obsession with music through four generations. The saga begins with an immigrant kid who starts working in burlesque houses, and traces his progeny through the birth of rock'n'roll all the way up to the punk/New Wave ruckus of the '80s. But the movie is really about ambition and freedom; pop music is a vehicle because the stakes are high. Scenes of glitzy performances are, for example, interspersed with bloody war shots involving one protagonist. The script by Ronni Kern has some surprising twists and fine dialogue. The sound track notably avoids the chestnuts one might expect. Why, though, include the Sex Pistols in a movie about American pop? And if them, why not the Beatles? Otherwise, American Pop is a vivid addition to our visual culture and yet another innovative triumph for Bakshi. (R)

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