An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
A Review of a Somewhat Disappointing Childhood Favorite
I remember loving "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" when I was a kid. Something about having a young mouse learning how to be a cowboy was fascinating to my small, cowboy-loving imagination. Much more so that the original "American Tail," I identified with this movie. So when I found a VHS tape of it amongst a pile of stuff people at my university were throwing away, I snatched it up.
So how does this movie compare to my nostalgia of it from the past?
It's sadly disappointing, unfortunately. The voice acting doesn't seem to be matched up to the lips correctly, and talents like John Cleese, Dom DeLuise, and James Stewart feel wasted. The plot is very thin, and it moves too fast.
For those who never saw the original "American Tail," the plot of that one revolved around the Mauskewitzes, a family of Russian Jewish mice (no, I don't know how mice can be Jewish, but whatever) who move to New York City to pursue the American Dream. However, their son Fievel is thrown overboard during the ocean voyage, and while he survives, the rest of the film revolves around his attempts to be reunited with his family.
The sequel finds the family all together and settled down. However, the shine has come off NYC, and the Mauskewitz family, particularly Fievel's father, is wanting something more. When a mysterious cowboy mouse comes, offering train tickets to a western town, they and many others decide to take him up on his offer. But things are not what they seem...
First, the good things. The villain, a cat named Cat R. Waul voiced by John Cleese, is a great antagonist, slimy and persuasive, so much so that you can understand why he could so easily trick the mice. His sidekick, a psychotic spider named Chula, is also simply fun to watch because he's so off the wall crazy. And the latter half of the film, where Fievel, his vegetarian cat friend Tiger, and the retired dog sheriff Wiley Burp (played by Jimmy Stuart in his last film role) train to defeat the cats, is pretty awesome all around.
However the plot seems too slight and moves too fast. I was not amused that the story blatantly reuses the plot point from the first movie where Fievel gets separated from his family (this time by being pushed off a train by the villains), which just seems too blatant. Fievel's father not being particularly concerned because he figures his son will eventually turn up makes this seem even more unecessary and ridiculous. Another storyline, involving Fievel's sister Tanya becoming a lounge singer in a saloon, while interesting (and resulting in a really good song), ultimately comes to very little. Similarly, a twist involving Tiger being mistaken for a god by a tribe of Native American mice just seems to be a time waster. It also was hard to suspend my disbelief regarding the voice acting sometimes as well, especially with Dom DeLuise: hearing his voice coming from Tiger's mouth just seems weird and I have a hard time believing him as a cat.
All in all, it's not a bad movie, just not great. It's a short and fun watch, if you're willing to turn your mind off for a little bit. but it is ultimately unsatisfying, and therefore doesn't have much of a rewatch value: once you've seen it, there's no reason to see it again.