American Pop is a dazzling display of talent, nerve, ideas (old and new), passion and a marvelously free sensibility. The man may well be a genius, though that sort of pronouncement will have to wait on time.
It's a bit unnerving to realize that an entire life can be summed up so well in 20 minutes and that four generations can be fit into a mere 96 minutes without feeling cramped, but that's what's so beautiful about stories like this, too.
That American Pop is a work of anti-nostalgia does not make it any less banal than the sunny trip-down-memory-lane formulas it mocks. For all his very real skills as an animator, Bakshi's limitations as an artist are all too clear in American Pop. There's something perversely small-minded about a saga of pop music that resolutely refuses to convey any sense of the joy of making music. Bakshi's ears hear only the downbeats. [16 March 1981, p.94]
Ralph Bakshi's half-baked epic American Pop exposes the banality of his pop mentality. The creator of "Lord of the Rings' and "Fritz the Cat" surpasses himself: American Pop is undeniably his sorriest spectacle yet. [6 March 1981, p.C11]
The daring ceases to be exploratory and turns, spitting and screaming, on itself. When
Bakshi shows us an animated replay of the infamous 1968 pistol execution
of a suspected Viet Cong sympathizer, he imparts to the event the grinning
slapstick of a Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote confrontation. It's as good a
place to walk out of American Pop as any. [6 March 1981]