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  Hey Good Lookin' Bakshi To The Future
Year: 1982
Director: Ralph Bakshi
Stars: Richard Romanus, David Proval, Jesse Welles, Tina Bowman, Danny Wells, Larry Bishop, Tabi Cooper, Juno Dawson, Shirley Jo Finney, Martin Garner, Terry Haven, Allen Joseph, Bernie Massa, Gelsa Palao, Paul Roman, Philip Michael Thomas, Frank DeKova
Genre: Comedy, Animated, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Long Island, the present day, and a trashcan is chatting with a pile of garbage about how long they've known each other. The garbage estimates it to have been about six weeks, but he doesn't believe he'll be there forever as there's always the strong chance he will be taken up to heaven, it has to happen sooner or later. So it is that a truck pulls up and scoops him into the back, and the garbage bids farewell to his chum with a hearty "Fuck this city!", but elsewhere in the night there is a shadowy figure stalking the streets until he meets a middle-aged woman who seems wary of him. He coaxes her to stick around with a piece of leather he has in his pocket, inviting her to inhale deeply of it and see where that transports her to...

Way back to Brooklyn in 1953 is where that is, in Ralph Bakshi's ode to his youth in New York which had a troubled production history. The film, that was, not his youth, for it was originally intended to feature a mixture of animation, which he had made his professional name with, and live action, an innovation that ultimately the studio didn't think the world was ready for. So he had to shelve what he had and work on it for almost ten years until it was more or less fully animated, after which he got his distribution deal and the results were his follow-up to his equally nostalgic American Pop, though nostalgia for Bakshi was not quite as rose-tinted as it would be for most people, as there was a harder edge here.

Therefore a curious combination of the warmly romantic and what amounted to a disgust with the way life was lived back then - and also in the eighties, if the bookends were to be believed - concocted the distinctive tone of Hey Good Lookin', which in spite of the title contained none of the original pop hits of the fifties on the soundtrack, as it was all new music featured, penned by John Mandara and Rick Sandler, which in truth sounded more like the sort of pastiche rock 'n' roll which arrived in the eighties' obsession with the then-recent past and spawned more than a few revivals of the style in the music charts, and if this was to be believed in the movie charts into the bargain, though it wasn't exactly Back to the Future we were dealing with.

So if the tunes didn't sound authentic, how was the rest of it? The voice work was very fine indeed, a morass of thick accents and genuinely distinguishable tones courtesy of a variety in Bakshi's cast, handling the slang with ease. In fact, you could say a lot of the film's effectiveness rested on the vocal duties, but the director's way with the animation complemented that as the characters were, in ways that were largely unpleasant to tell the truth, very individual, from the insistence on baggy flesh and pimples, all rendered with a cheery bounce, in practically all of them aside from the two leads, Vinnie (voiced by Richard Romanus) and his girlfriend Rozzie (Tina Bowman). Those two were held up as the pinnacle of cool, he sharp in his zoot suit and combing his perfect hair, she curvaceous and straining at her clothes as an idealised fifties female.

Contrast those with their best pals, Vinnie's buddy Crazy (David Proval) the wacky, red-haired goofball who spends most of his time getting beaten up - Vinnie hits him too, apparently out of idle fun - and Rozzie's friend Eva (Jesse Welles) who resembles the plump fairies out of Disney's Sleeping Beauty only without the magic and younger. As for the narrative, it was episodic as if written in a barrage of memories that kept occurring to Bakshi and trying to find room for each and every one of them, ranging from the minutiae of dressing up of an evening to the more serious matter of gang violence, which is the way the lengthy flashback culminates. This was assuredly not a cartoon for the kids, as it featured lots of swearing, nudity, violence and sexual situations in the way of this filmmaker since his Fritz the Cat days, and even though there was the strong caricature of that in the presentation, the fact that it felt truly sorry for times past and all the missed opportunities that echoed down the years offered more depth than you might have credited it with. It remained slapdash, but often surreal in its throwbacks.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Ralph Bakshi  (1938 - )

American animator of edgy, often adult-oriented cartoons. He spent a few years directing shorts for TV before branching out on his own with the R. Crumb adaptation Fritz the Cat. He continued in this frank approach for Heavy Traffic and the controversial Coonskin, and then switched to fantasy with The Lord of the Rings, Wizards and Fire and Ice. American Pop and Hey Good Lookin' also had fans, and he returned to TV to revive Mighty Mouse in the 1980s.

When the 1990s comeback Cool World was a flop, Bakshi's directing work wound down, and he now concentrates on his paintings, with occasional returns to animation.

 
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