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American Pop

2 Ratings: 3.5
A movie

The film was animated using RotoScope.

Director: Ralph Bakshi
Genre: Drama, Animation, Music, Musical
Release Date: February 13, 1981
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about American Pop

American Pop - 1981

  • May 4, 2006
  • by
Pros: music, music, music, animation, direction

Cons: none

The Bottom Line: "I awoke last night to the sound_of_thunder
How far off I sat_and_wondered
Started humming a song_from_1962
Ain’t it funny how the night_moves"

In this day and age people are more accustomed to the graphics of movies and games, but “back in my day” this was a visual treat. We were coming off of things like hand-drawn Mickey’s and moving into animated cartoons. Sure, we had Disney, but those were people that didn’t really look like people. Come on, who looks like Cinderella for heaven’s sake? Then we get American Pop and we are introduced to life-like people.

What is American Pop?
We start In Russia in the 1800’s, with an overthrow by the Czar. A woman and her young son escape to America and the story starts to unfold. Dumped into the streets of New York, our young lad doesn’t take long to learn the ways of the new world. He carries a dream, to become a well known singer. The fact that he isn’t the best singer in the world doesn’t matter, he has the belief and the power to overcome that.

Welcome to WWI. Playing in the Vaudeville, his troop goes overseas to entertain and a stray bullet ends his singing career but starts a whole new avenue of life for him. One that leads him to the arms of a stripper and a life of love. Now stripping ain’t her gig either, she has the voice and his goal is to promote that voice. In the interim they have a beautiful son. Another young man with a gift and a dream.

Now Daddy runs with the nefarious crowd. That’s the way it is during these times. If you want to get ahead, you have to turn to desperate measures. From that hook-up our young man marries the “bosses” daughter, an arranged affair. He also has the love of music. In this movie, it’s all about the music. Just when things seem like they are going to go right for this new American family - welcome to WWII. And he enlists. He doesn’t return but, while gone, his wife has a son. And so the story continues. And that son has a son.

And so on and so on and so on.

Audio/Visual interpretation
What we are viewing is the evolution of a family from generation to generation. And with that evolution, we hear the changes in styles of music, shown through graphic visuals. Interspersed through these cartoon-like graphics are some live shots and news clips from the era we are involved in.

The range goes from the early Vaudeville stages through current Bob Seger. Sound clips are short, just a few lines from each song, accompanied by graphic visuals.

While I generally don’t like animated movies, this is entirely different. The work is done in almost a folk art reproduction. The dancing gals in Vaudeville are quite buxom and overblown while the street walkers later on are svelte yet quite shapely. It’s their movements that interest me however. They seem to glide or meld through the production, adding a surreal quality to the film. Colorization is done in almost a neon-light type of visual effect giving most of the players a halo appearance. But that is during the performance segments. In ‘live’ segments, when the characters are not on stage, they are colorful and in-your-face.

The soundtrack is outstanding and one reason to enjoy this movie. I was amazed, watching it now, with how many of the eras I was personally involved in or lived through. I remember when it first came out all I identified with was from the Viet Nam era on, not the other time frames.

I first saw American Pop some umpteen billion years ago. It has never left me for some reason. It’s a strange movie that way. You have to remember this came out when graphics were practically nil. We had an Atari 2600 and our most extensive graphic was PacMan. Mostly we dealt with little dots chasing little dots. Nothing like games today, or movies today for that matter. Games today are so life-like you believe you are actually at a ballpark or driving a racecar. The same goes with movies.

But there was something about this movie and there still is today. It can take you in and wrap you up and sometimes even take you away. This family was truly living the American Dream and you just knew that some day, some how, one of them would succeed.

American Pop was written by Ronni Kern and directed by Ralph Bakshi. I can’t believe it didn’t win any awards, but perhaps during that time frame, 1981, people weren’t ready for this new age stuff. There were over 40 songs showcased in this movie with everything from Cole Porter to Jimi Hendrix to Bob Seger. This movie is as hard to describe as it must have been to produce.

If you have the slightest interest in the history of music, this would be a good film to watch.



Viewing Format: DVD
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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