In 1986, Steven Spielberg released the first ever animated feature he had ever been apart of, An American Tail. Directed by animation legend Don Bluth, this film would beat out Disney's The Great Mouse Detective financially and would soon form Bluth as Disney's biggest competitor in the 1980s. So much so that Disney not only boosted up their game, but would soon create the Disney Renaissance and even beat Bluth out with classics like The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast and The Lion King. But with that out of the way, how does this movie hold up?
Right off the bat, this movie never pulls any punches when it needs to. The story centers around a Russian jewish mouse named Fievel Mouskewitz in the search for his family in New York City after getting washed ashore. While the movie does get really sad by constantly letting down poor Fievel whenever he thinks he's one step closer to seeing his folks again, it also has quite an optimistic feel to it. It's not hard to root for Fievel on his journey due to how determined he is to find his loved ones, especially with the help of others. The film lets Fievel down so much that when he finally reunites with his family at the end, it's an incredibly happy and heart melting moment that really makes all those hardships worth it.
The characters besides Fievel are more of a mix, with some either being good supporters or being rather unnecessary. Obviously Fievel's family is the main goal of the film, but the kind spirited father, worrisome mother and sweet sister give the right amount of closure to make the audience want to see them back together with their little boy. The ones Fievel meets in America like Henri, Tony and Bridget do their best to help the poor guy out, but they tend to get caught up in their own situations. The most amusing characters are Honest John and Gussie Mausheimer due to their caricatured personas of rich folk in the 1880s and witty vocal deliveries from Neil Ross and Madeline Kahn. Of course there's Tiger voiced by Dom DeLuise, but he tended to be more annoying than funny and he could have done more in the film to make me remember him.
In addition to James Horner's emotionally captivating music score, the songs are simply phenomenal. From the highly entertaining There Are No Cats in America, to the whimsically optimistic Never Say Never, to the comical and upbeat Duo, these songs really emphasize both the optimistic tone and the false belief that America is entirely free of criminals. However, the real stand out is Somewhere Out There; it perfectly captures the theme that even through the most difficult and dark times in life, it's important to look on the bright side because there's a good chance things will turn out for the better very soon. Not to mention, it's enough to even make an old man cry it's so emotional.
The animation is the usual Don Bluth wonderment with the lovable character designs and animation, and some exceptionally well crafted colors and lighting depending on the scene (the dramatic ones stand out most). The backgrounds also have a very photographic aesthetic that really recreate the belief that the film takes place in New York during this time period. Rotoscoping was also used for the humans and some contraptions, and they do look quite lavish and smooth. The only complaint with the animation is that it's pretty obvious when some shots are reused, although that's more a fault of the small budget the film had.
In terms of negatives, I think the film's story kinda went all over the place some of the time. I understand this is meant to be a series of escapades in one big city for a little mouse, but the side characters' goal to get rid of the cats doesn't even conclude at the very end and is kind of forgotten about by the time the third act begins in favor of wrapping up Fievel's arch. Also, I think the film would have been better without the inclusion of Warren T. Rat. While I get the intent to portray him as a conniving conman who lies even with his appearance, the dangers Fievel encounters in New York are villainous enough, and he could have easily been apart of the rest of the antagonistic felines. Nonetheless, I still think An American Tail holds up as an emotional albeit optimistic tale that helps prove Don Bluth's belief that children can handle just about anything as long as you give them a happy ending in return.
An American Tail
An American Tail
Fievel is a young Russian mouse separated from his parents on the way to America, a land they think is without cats. When he arrives alone in the New World, he keeps up hope, searching for his family, making new friends, and running and dodging the cats he thought he'd be rid off.
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February 24, 2014 at 06:30 AM