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American Tail, An
1986 - G - 80 Mins.
Director: Don Bluth
Producer: Frank Marshall, Steven Spielberg
Written By: Judy Freudberg
Starring: Phillip Glasser, Dom DeLuise. Christopher Plummer
Review by: Joe Jarvis

Fievel comes to America
Don Bluth was an animator who worked at Disney in the 1970s. Bluth felt the films he was working on were lacklustre and half-hearted so he left Disney to work on films, which he said were going to be better than, say, “The Rescuers,” and more like great Disney classics such as “Snow White” and “Pinocchio.”

As luck would have it, Bluth's timing was unfortunate. Firstly, Disney was coming out with new films that harked back to its golden era of the forties and fifties (“Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.) surpassed all of Bluth’s films, critically and financially. And disappointingly, Bluth’s films were simply not that good. He wanted to make films that could appeal to both adults and children, but his films, such as “An American Tail” will probably have more to offer children than to adults.

I wouldn’t exactly call “An American Tail” truly bad, but from an adult point of view, it feels a bit blah. It seems cute in a way, as the main character, little mouse Fievel, is simply adorable. But it’s also empty and cloying at the same time. One problem concerns the plot which begins as a spoof of the mass European immigration to America during the late nineteenth century -- this time, mice are making their way to the New World. The plot starts off fluid and coherent, but it soon branches off as episodic once Fievel goes missing. Mixing the two elements has worked (look at “Finding Nemo”), but it blatantly doesn't work here.

Another issue I had was concerning the musical numbers. You may get put off here, but the guy who wrote the songs in this film also wrote “My Heart will go on.” Don’t worry about being put off by this. The songs are fairly unmemorable and are poorly staged and sung. They seemed shoved into the plot and hardly fit into the piece. If this happens on the stage, I’m fine. But on the screen, useless songs don’t work.

Speaking of things not working, the animation is fairly crummy. I like animation if it’s stylish or if it looks fairly realistic. The animation (and art direction) in “An American Tail” looks cheap, unrealistic and cartoony. Unlike in many animated films, you cannot imagine the drawings are real for a split second; they’re unbelievably lame and look as bad as a poorly made Saturday morning animated show.

But I suppose “An American Tail” wasn’t that bad. As a cartoon, it’s audience may primarily be children, and I’m sure this will entertain the kiddies a lot. I think anybody would appreciate a film that could sustain the interest of a four year old. And I suppose it’s not nearly as bad as the sequel it spawned off, which makes this film look like “Fantasia” (don’t ask).

On the whole, “An American Tail” is a cute yet lacklustre affair. It has some nice touches and is good for kids, but it’s rather empty and lazy and probably bore the attending parents to tears.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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