An American Tail
Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Animation Adventure Comedy Music Family Drama
1 hr. 20 min.
Year of Release:
November 21, 1986
Steven Spielberg (co-producer) is always coming up with something new and different; no exception here. “An American Tail” opens with a view of the Moskowitz family home in Russia, 1885. In the outer wall, near the human door, is another tiny door with the sign “Mousekewitz.” The film centers on the adventures of this family of Russian-Jewish mice, and specifically on little Fievel Mousekewitz, who is always getting into trouble. When anti-Semitic humans firebomb the Moskowitz home, the mice are also made homeless and are chased by cats (who correspond to the anti-Semites). They decide to set out for America where there are supposedly no cats.
The parallel between human and mouse activity is continued throughout the film, including at the immigration center near the statue of liberty where the mice “Westernize” their names. No mice die in the film, although we see a wake for one who is already dead; and the cat “Tiger” (voice of Dom DeLuise), who is modeled on the cowardly lion in “The Wizard of Oz” and is friendly to mice, provides some comic relief from the serious theme. Even so, some younger children may not be able to tolerate the constant threat of violence from the cats and the long period during which Fievel is separated from his family and can’t find them. The most memorable song in the film, “Somewhere Out There,” is sung in parallel by Fievel and his sister while they’re searching for each other.
Followed by: “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West” (1991) and “An American Tail III: The Treasure of Manhattan Island” (2000).