Americana Movie Month: "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" Review


Americana Movie Month: "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" Review

-- Rating: G
Length: 75 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 22, 1991
Directed by: Phil Nibbelink, Simon Wells
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy

"An American Tail," the first installment of the series, showcased the adventures of Fievel Mousekewitz (Phillip Glasser) during the Mousekewitz family's escape from czarist cats in Russia. The second installment, "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West," begins with the Mousekewitz family struggling to make ends meet in the Bronx even as Fievel is happily dreaming of scenarios where he becomes the proud owner of a sheriff's badge by helping Wild West's famous dog-sheriff Wylie Burp (James Stewart) defeat powerful criminal cat gangs.

Fievel's optimistic outlook about his future is not shared by his other family members who are depressed by the poverty, squalor, and lack of opportunities around them. Papa Mousekewitz (Nehemiah Persoff) and Mama Mousekewitz (Erica Yohn) reminisce how they enjoyed basic comforts when living in Russia, while Tanya Mousekewitz (Cathy Cavadini) is insecure with her singing abilities and her chances of making it big in life.

Things take a turn for worse when cats attack the rat community and force them to flee into the sewers with their loved ones. This turns out to be a cunning ruse by evil Cat R. Waul (John Cleese) to lure the rats to the Wild West and kill them all.

Fievel is separated from his family but inadvertently discovers Cat R. Waul's evil plans when trying to get back to his loved ones. He is discovered eavesdropping and is thrown off the train by Chula (Jon Lovitz), a spider working for Cat R. Waul.

An interesting subplot in the movie is the story of a good-natured but diffident cat named Tiger (Dom DeLuise). His girlfriend Miss Kitty (Amy Irving) decides to move to the West to become a diva and dumps Tiger for not being bold and brave enough. Tiger's effort to win his love back and his transformation into a courageous dog-cat under the training of legendary dog-sheriff Wylie Burp enhances the overall appeal of the movie. His effort to overcome his fear of spiders is a good lesson for the movie's young audience on how fears can be mastered if we but focus and become determined.

Both Tiger and Fievel get stranded in the desert and, at one point, actually see each other during their wanderings. However, both, rather humorously, conclude that they are simply seeing a mirage and continue to wander alone. Tiger is caught by a group of native-American rats who take him to be their deity due to his similarity with their idol. Fievel is captured by a hawk but manages to escape after being scared off by fireworks set off by Tiger and his disciples.

Tiger decides to stay with his tribe, while Fievel is reunited with his family, which he unsuccessfully tries to warn about Cat R. Waul's nefarious plan. Fievel foolishly confronts Cat R. Waul and manages to escape when the latter is mesmerized by Tanya's sweet voice. Tanya improves after being coached by Miss Kitty, who admits that she is missing her past life with Tiger.

Fievel is overjoyed to meet Wylie Burp but is dismayed to find that his idol has become cynical and pessimistic about his strengths and ideals. How Fievel helps his idol rediscover his strengths and how the duo, with some unexpected help, turns the tables on Cat R. Waul form the rest of the story. Typical of a kids' movie, there is a happy ending where even the bad guys end up saving their skin despite their evil intentions.

Director duo Phil Nibbelink and Simon Wells have retained the essence of the series but have made slight changes to the characters and their appearances to enhance its appeal to the movie's target audience. With a simple and predictable plot, the movie focuses on good animation, a melodious score, and lots of action to keep the audience rooted to its seats.

The cast of actors have done a perfect job of lending their voices to the characters. From the youthful and ever-optimistic Fievel to the sinister and sophisticated Waul, every character has been voiced perfectly, and this adds to the overall fun quotient of the movie.

While one can, if forced to find flaws in the movie, nitpick about how the plot could have been a bit more complex and how characters could have risen above stereotypes, these criticisms fall flat when one considers the entire package as a whole. There is no denying that the movie does a commendable job of converting lessons about traits like bravery, honesty, optimism, and following your heart into a colorful and entertaining experience.

Rating 3 out of 5