a critiQal film review An American Tail (1986)

Plot: A young mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz (Glasser) and his family emigrate from Russia to the United States by boat after their home is destroyed by cats. During the trip, a fierce storm throws Fievel from the ship, and he loses contact with his family. Luckily, he manages to sail to New York in a bottle. There, Irish mouse Bridget (Blore), an Italian mouse named Tony (Musick) and a kindly cat named Tiger (DeLuise) help Fievel search for his loved ones.

472 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 21s)

When one of the grandkids hurt themselves jumping on the couch, we tried to come up with something for them to watch so they wouldn’t be hobbling around on their crutches. Carmella picked An American Tail on NetFlix®, and we gave it a shot. Would this interest our grandchild, much less us? Or is this just another dumb kids movie that kids don’t even like?

The voice cast of An American Tail is mostly unknown (even 30 years later), with only a few exceptions. Christopher Plummer, Madeline Kahn and 80’s fave Dom DeLuise pop up, with only Dom’s voice recognizable. The rest of the cast is largely forgettable, and the cast that sings is downright atrocious, especially the singing voices of Fievel (the main character) and his sister.

The plot is simple enough. An American Tail follows Fievel and his family as they leave Russia and travel to America in the 1880s. Fievel, being a bad mouse kid, gets lost while on the journey, and must find his family once he winds up in America. Pretty simple, yet with overtones of real stories of immigration, dumbed down for kids. Seemed decent enough of a plot for a kids movie.

Then there’s Fievel himself. A brat with no real brains, this mouse has to be one of the dumbest cartoon heroes around. He gets into all sorts of mischief while on his own, but An American Tail, of course, ends on a happy note. The problem, however, most everyone is nice to him on his journey, and he doesn’t actually learn any good lessons. Instead, he seems to learn it’s okay to leave his parents, and strangers are good. Not exactly lessons kids should be learning.

The animation isn’t that great, either. While Don Bluth’s previous film, The Secret of NIMH, had solid animation, a gripping storyline and well-developed characters, An American Tail seems to just be thrown together. With drawing that will make you keep wondering if your internet connection is slow or if the drawing is really that choppy, this film even lets the viewer down in the animation department.

An American Tail, therefore, seems to be the direct opposite of The Secret of NIMH. While that film was just solidly good, this film lacks in every department. And, yes, this film did gain some popularity back in the day with a hit song, “Somewhere Out There”, but the actual song in the movie is done by several pitchy voices who shouldn’t be trying to hit some of those high notes. Just plain bad throughout, viewers will not be able to understand how this movie spawned three sequels (even if two of those were direct-to-video).

Oh, and will your kids like An American Tail? Nope. Our grandchild, despite having to use crutches, didn’t even last 20 minutes before careening out of the room.

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