Ralph Bakshi John Simon - Essay

John Simon

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ralph Bakshi's new animated feature, Wizards, tries to be a fresh departure but looks more like a late arrival. Even though we are in a fairytale future, there is still much uninteresting contemporary street lingo, the plotting is still weak, the idea still hackneyed. The quality of the drawing is not bad, though lacking in intense originality, and the simplistic tale of good, sloppy pacifism winning out over wicked, hyperefficient militarism is not couched in terms that could be considered arresting.

As usual with Bakshi, there is an inadequate musical score …, and, again as usual, only worse here, the dragging in of poorly integrated live action. The only one ever to get away with this kind of cinematic miscegenation was the fine Czech animator, Karel Zeman, and even he only intermittently. What makes it so offensive here is that scenes from Nazi newsreels, The Triumph of the Will, and Alexander Nevsky juxtaposed with Bakshi's elves, fairies, and wizards make Bakshi look pretentious and his inventions puny. The strategy also cheapens the great horrors of history, not to mention Eisenstein's art. Were the brush of a Leonardo at work here, it could not paint over the coarseness of the imagination. (pp. 73-4)

John Simon, "Well-Intentioned, Ill-Conceived," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1977 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 10, No. 19, May 9, 1977, pp. 70, 72-4.∗