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Review: 'Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End' draws out a provocative artist

Review: 'Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End' draws out a provocative artist
Dwayne Booth in the documentary "Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End." (Grasshopper Film)

As a 7-year-old suburban New Jersey white boy, Dwayne Booth wanted to be famed black activist Angela Davis. That pretty much says it all about the person who would become the wildly iconoclastic cartoonist known as Mr. Fish. His story is told with enjoyable insight and candor in the documentary “Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End,” directed, shot and produced by Pablo Bryant.

Bryant, with plenty of engaging input from the puckishly handsome Booth (think a bespectacled Kevin Bacon), plus comments from fellow cartoonists, critic F.X. Feeney, musician Graham Nash and others, sketches a provocative portrait of the prolific, trenchantly talented artist and satirist.

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Although Booth’s work has been published by many print and web outlets, the often disturbing, lewd and inflammatory nature of his political cartooning (shown here to eye-popping effect) and Booth’s resistance to artistic moderation, have kept him from mainstream success and its financial rewards.

This is particularly troubling to his seemingly devoted wife, Diana, who’s often seen pressing Booth about his casual approach to their real-life financial concerns (they’re raising twin daughters). Booth’s conflicted forays into “straight jobs” such as teaching and supermarket sign maker as well as better-paying stints in TV animation, deftly illustrate the classic struggle between art and commerce — and one man’s uncompromising campaign to tell his truth.

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‘Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Playing: Starts Dec. 7, Laemmle Glendale; available on iTunes Dec. 18

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