Tales of the Rat Fink

Runs at Grand Illusion, Fri., Sept. 22– Wed., Sept. 27. Not rated. 78 minutes.

There are those of us (sorry, guys only) who sniffed high-test in our youth, or the glue necessary to assemble the model car kits based on what our older brothers or dads were building in the garage during the '50s and '60s. Or maybe, in the '70s, we just bought the chalky-tasting flat-pack bubble gum sets with Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's collectible cards inside. Meaning the bug-eyed, fly-bedecked cartoon monsters protruding out of a hot rod—the grandfathers to Pimp My Ride. If you don't share those chrome-nostalgia memories, this tribute to Roth (1932–2001) will be meaningless. Celebrity voices including John Goodman (as Roth), Jay Leno, Brian Wilson, and Matt Groening testify to the legacy of this baby boomer icon. Tom Wolfe did it better, of course, in his 1965 The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, which tried to raise Roth onto the shelf with Warhol and Lichtenstein. Rat Fink isn't a scholarly work, and it isn't going to push him, posthumously, into MoMA. Though it cleverly mixes stock footage, new animation, and the unfortunate device of talking cars (yes, like Cars, only more annoying), the movie doesn't provide enough detail or biographical insight into a craftsman who represented himself as an artist working with spray paint and fiberglass. His criticism of gallery paintings? "They don't mean anything. They're not groovy." Again, Wolfe said it better the first time. BRIAN MILLER

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