American Pop

 (690)7.21 h 35 min1981X-RayR
Ralph Bakshi directs this journey into an explosion of sight, sound, song and superb storytelling, set to a soundtrack with hit music.
Ralph Bakshi
Ron ThompsonRon ThompsonMarya Small (Voices)
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Jerry HollandJerry HollandLisa Jane PerskyVincent SchiavelliJeffrey LippaLisa Jane PerskyJeffrey LippaRoz KellyFrank De KovaRoz KellyVincent Schiavelli
Ralph BakshiMartin Ransohoff
Columbia Pictures
R (Restricted)
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4.7 out of 5 stars

690 global ratings

  1. 82% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 12% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 4% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 1% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

PhillipReviewed in the United States on April 7, 2014
5.0 out of 5 starsMy favorite movie of all time
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Its a DVD, so there's really not much to say about the product itself. It arrived undamaged and carefully wrapped in plastic to avoid the same, so kudos for that.
Its the movie that matters.
It's certainly an epic, following the growth of American culture and music through through the lives of four successive generations of American people - Zalmie, Benny, Tony, and Little Pete. Because of the grand scale of such an endeavor, their individual stories are condensed, and thus, must retain emotion and depth of character through the clever use of cliches and archetypes. This - along with the very fluid and iconic animation style - lends American Pop with an almost mythic quality. This is the modern American legend - a story of overwhelming ambition and determination, and of the myriad triumphs, tragedies, and failures that precede their realization.
The use of music - appropriately - is where American Pop really shines. A century's worth of music is masterfully weaved into the story, always paying homage where it came from. Specifically, the scenes involving Benny playing the piano and Janis Joplin's cover of "Summertime" are easily the best in the film, and carry an astounding emotional power.
Now for the personal bit - since I was like 5 and I watched my stepdad's copy so many times the tape broke, this is my favorite movie of all time. For years afterward, I couldn't remember its name - only the scene where Zalmie is hit by a stray bullet while he's in the ass end of the horse costume. A few months ago, I heard the name and looked it up. Lo and behold, I recognized the plot description on Wikipedia, so I watched it online. After that so many things began to make sense - I walk like I do because 5-year-old-me saw Little Pete learn to walk that way, I grew up loving all of the music this movie introduced me to, etc. etc.
I know for me, there's a very strong element of nostalgia in this movie, but if you get the idea to buy it, you will not be disappointed.
20 people found this helpful
Special KReviewed in the United States on March 6, 2021
5.0 out of 5 starsArguably Bakshi's best!
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If you don't know Ralph Bakshi's work, please allow me to introduce you: he is arguably the greatest Avant guard animator in history. He is most well known for "Lord of the Rings" and "Fritz the Cat ..." but there is so much more to his catalog than that! This is my new favorite -- it's the story of 4 generations of a Jewish immigrant family and their contributions to music over the course of history. It spans 70 years, from early 1900's vaudeville to 50's doo-wop to 60's San Francisco and 70's punk. The soundtrack is absolutely amazing - Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols, Lynyrd Skynyrd ... I could go on and on. This is more than a movie: it's a totally immersive experience for anyone who loves rock n' roll, and is interested in the history of music. Enjoy!
Noreen Anthony-tabarReviewed in the United States on September 8, 2018
4.0 out of 5 starsReminds me of my early adulthood
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I saw this in the movie theater when it came out. Great coloring and love the music. I went to see the movies just to hear the music, from the 1900 through to the 1980's.
Story of 4 generation and how they all tried to 'make it' in show business. How the last son in that generation (and he was a coke dealer) got to play in large stadiums is still a mystery with me.
Non the less a pretty good movie for those who like their early adulthood in the 1980's and that culture that when with it.
5 people found this helpful
Blaze GirlReviewed in the United States on June 2, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars"...Givin' 'em away, a song an ounce."
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I've always found this electrifying masterpiece to be, well, hard to pitch to those who've never seen it. It shouldn't be! The story of popular American music genres, conterminous with the story of European immigrants evolving with the changes; each generation in their own way impressionable, and ambitious, and striving to be something greater than the last.

Maybe because some people assume animated works can't be as serious as live action? It's hard to say why, but I'll never forget the feelings that charged through me when I finished AMERICAN POP for the first time. Oddly enough, those same bursts of energy and excitement arrive with each viewing I have of this masterpiece.

I will say though, this DVD cover is a major injustice, to such an artistic piece of work. Looks as if some cheap Microsoft word document printed it out at the last minute. The movie deserves a special edition, or at the very least, a cover with all the flare the film has itself !
10 people found this helpful
ArctosReviewed in the United States on May 22, 2012
5.0 out of 5 starshistory and music
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American Pop focuses first on a Russian Jewish immigrant named Sulmie who grows up in New York during the Vaudeville era, after losing his mother to a fire he is taken in by Vaudeville performers and taught music and dance. But a bullet to the throat during WWI steals his voice leaving him to forever do none musical performances. He eventually has a son named Benny with a stripper who he gives this ultimatium either live his dream or live his life, Benny marries and goes off to fight WWII where he is killed by a German soldier because he forgets where he is. His son Tony, after an argument with his half brother and sisters steals a car and goes all the way to Kansas where he meets a waitress then goes all the way to California where he gets into the psyadelic rock era. Then one night in Kansas he sees this boy back stage where their performing, and his mind goes back through the alcohal and drug haze back to the waitress with corn blond hair and sky blue eyes and knows the boy is his. Also that night the women who had made his songs reality dies of a drug overdose and with her burial Tony buries his dreams. Tony and Pete, his son go back to New York where Tony becomes a drug addict and Pete takes care of him until one night Tony sends a bag full of cocaine to Pete with the message good-bye. Pete soon becomes a drug dealer during the Punk rock era, where he uses cocaine to blackmail a recording from a record company and eventually makes the men in his family's dream a reality. If you like history, drama, and music this is definately a keeper.
8 people found this helpful
Jim CherryReviewed in the United States on June 21, 2009
4.0 out of 5 starsA Family History of Music, Ambition, & Tragedy
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American Pop is Ralph Bakshi's animated tale of a family's struggle to realize it's musical ambitions through the 20th Century.

Zalmie is a Russian Jewish immigrant to NY, his father a cantor was killed in a pogrom by the Czar's Cossacks. Upon arriving in America his mother is killed in a sweatshop fire, and Zalmie is left to the streets of New York. Zalmie finds his place in the world on Vaudeville, at first distributing chorus slips to customers so they can sing along, then he moves up the Vaudeville ropes to singer. During a USO show in WWI France there's a German attack and Zalmie is wounded in the throat, ending his dream of being a singer. He returns to Vaudeville, becomes a comedian and meets the girl of his dreams, a stripper. Zalmie tries to turn her into a star but life intervenes again, she gets pregnant and Zalmie needing to earn a living falls in with the mob.

Zalmie's ambitions are resurrected in his son Benny a talented piano player, but Benny would rather play with a negro Jazz band than seriously pursue music as his father would like. To please his father Benny marries the mobsters daughter and his life would seem to be set until WWII breaks out and Benny is sent to Europe. While on patrol Benny comes across a piano in an abandoned building where he takes a minute to play a little music. The music rouses a wounded German soldier who for a moment seems to be lulled by Benny's playing, but in a moment that shows the ruthlessness of war, and proof that music doesn't always soothe the savage breast, the German soldier kills Benny.

The story flashes forward to Benny's son Tony, a teenager finding himself smothered in the inertia of the late 50's, early 60's suburban television life. Tony steals a car and is off on his own Jack Kerouac On The Road adventure. When he lands in Kansas he meets a beautiful girl and they have a night of passion. Tony makes his way to San Franscisco where he meets a rock band fronted by Frankie Hart who has a more than passing resemblance to Janis Joplin. Tony lies to them and tells them he writes songs, and Tony proceeds to writing a slew of hit songs, as well as providing drugs to the band. Eventually, the drugs take over and rule Tony's life, Frankie dies, and when the band finds itself in Kansas Tony adopts a kid named Little Petey who reminds him of the girl he meet in Kansas so many years before. Tony and Little Pete go to New York where Tony teaches Little Pete the ins and outs of writing songs and drug dealing, until one day Tony splits, leaving Pete with a legacy of loving music and drug dealing. When Petey grows up he uses his drug dealing connections to get a band interested in songs he's written which culminates in Petey becoming successful, Zalmie's dream realized at last.

If the plot and story seem a little stereotyped or like you've seen them before, you probably have. What Makes American Pop different from other movies is the animation and the music. Bakshi uses the animation to great effect, from what would ordinarily be an average movie to something special, and uses just enough vintage footage to set the tone of the era. The real star of the movie though, is the music. Most of the musical forms and writers of the 20th Century are represented, to name just a few George M Cohan, Scott Joplin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, Dave Brubeck, Elvis, Lou Reed, Heart, Pat Benatar, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Seeger.

American Pop came out almost 30 years ago, and a couple of years ago I found myself intereseted in seeing the movie again, so I bought the DVD and hoped that I wouldn't find the material dated, and I wasn't disappointed the movie still holds its appeal. The only thing that could have enhanced the DVD was some bonus features, there isn't even a directors commentary, and maybe a documentary on the making of American Pop or on Bakshi's influence in the world of animation, I think it could arguably be said American Pop influenced the animation of today such as the Pixar movies.
One person found this helpful
Dean WallReviewed in the United States on June 12, 2009
5.0 out of 5 starsAMERICAN POP: Popular Music, and Fatherhood
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The storyline is the BLOODLINE of Jewish immigrants, from Czarist Russia, through the DEVO counterculture. The mores of the time are depicted in the generational 'hiccups.' Upon first viewing, this is an obtuse, roadblock. The movie seems to start/stop, and introduce new characters.

The rotocoped performances by Roz Kelly, and others, along with permission from BOB SEGAR to use his actual voice...[did anyone really notice when, SOMEBODY TO LOVE by Jefferson Airplane, was a COVER?]for a fictional character. Bob Dylan, having allowed the fictional character to "WRITE" a hit or two of his, is ANOTHER PLUS.

The Music of AMERICAN POP, is well, broad, and somewhat comprehensive. From the popular, for its day, Maple Leaf Rag, to the popular, at the time the movie was released, Night Moves, sweeps along, period by period, as the absentee/rogue/and scoundrel fathers do their best, for the times...THEY live in. All with a musical talent. From a CANTOR, in Russia, through vaudeville, WW II, Rebelious 50's, The BEAT Generation, the Flower POP of the '60s, the drug counter-culture, Hard Rock, and even PUNK. WHEW! IF you like a broad spectrum of music, LIKE I DO, Then The SCRAWNY SOUNDTRACK ALBUM [compared to the sweeping and VAST music, actually in the film.] is a bit of a let-down. Single LP? "C'mon, I'm Dyin' here!"

The heart-wrenching scene where a strung-out heroine freak, realizes he's just met his illegitimate son, and then is too weak to kick the habit...Though he really wishes he could, is more raw and edgy, than mainstream animation has NEVER before tackled.

My only disappointment on viewing/multiple viewing, is some registration errors in the original film, loused up a couple of parts. The overall animation is slow vintage, in the early part, 101 Dalmations-esque, in the Beat Generation section, and Wild and MOD, in the final section. [With EVERYTHING in between, I should add.]

THIS is almost an AUTOBIOGRAPHY of RALPH BAKSHI. [As much as PECKER, is an Autobiography of John Waters, anyway] He is of partial-Eastern Europe/Jewish descent, and is in a ART FORM, much like music. His early SPIDERMAN TV SERIES work, was 180-ed, when he then, released, the "X" rated [really!] FRITZ The CAT. I don't see Disney going THAT far, though I do find Disney's "Potty Humor, requirement, just plain 'DUMB BUSINESS.'
The REASON, I mention Disney, is that it was Surprising to see, ROY DISNEY's name drift up the credits. [Ya, gotta remember, Don BLUTH, long-time Disney animator, defected, and created LAND BEFORE TIME, and SECRET OF NIHM, about this period, to appreciate ROY DISNEY's position.]

A fun little cameo of RICHARD (Night Court) MOLL as the tortured beat poet [doing an Allen Ginsberg piece,] is both true to the times, and another turning point where the WORDS are flip-flopped with TUNES as the important talent.

The GENES of a RABBI-Cantor singer, a songwriter, a piano player, a hippy lyricist, all combine to the WRITER/PERFORMER artist of the final STADIUM ROCK performance, finding the stardom...each of the previous 'POPs' had hoped their son could attain.

Bless you, Ralph.
2 people found this helpful
QuaestorReviewed in the United States on August 3, 2013
5.0 out of 5 starsGenius, just genius
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I am a big Bakshi fan and, except for "FTC", I love his work. He has been well ahead of his time in the field of animation. You need to know some socioeconomic history and some music history to really get the full impact of the movie but, even at face value, it is great. I lived through a lot of the time frame covered in the movie. I grew up in Brooklyn and I'm familiar with the Lower East Side of Manhattan. So it hits me on several levels but. anyone who enjoys music and can recognize the icons employed will love this DVD. There are sever layers and sub-plots which the music brings together. There are several sub plots and Bakshi doesn't push them into your face so you have to pay attention...or not. American Pop is on a much more intellectual than it first seems. It's a lot of ground to cover in on movie and Bakshi does a superb job. I also recommend "Wizards" available on Amazon. It came right on time. Good price, I'm also an Amazon fan.
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