5) An American Tail (1986)
What You Thought As A Kid:
Little Fievel is such a cutie! I feel so sad and sorry for him – this dank old city is a horrible, horrible place. But at least Fievel has a trustworthy group of companions to look out for him. This movie is actually kind of frightening, but so is everything when you’re a child, so I suppose I’ll keep watching it and remember that it scared me loads when I get a bit older. Yes! Time for the song! “Somewhere out there… beneath the pale moonlight…” Aw. Maybe dreams do come true.
What’s Really Going On:
Ever heard of Don Bluth? No? He made pretty much every other animated movie that Disney didn’t make back in the 80s and 90s. You know: The Secret of NIMH, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go To Heaven, Thumbelina, Anastasia and… An American Tail. This adorable animated telling of the immigration story holds a special place in a lot of people’s hearts, but I bet most of those people haven’t seen this depressing slog of entertainment recently. Without sounding overly dramatic, An American Tail is absolutely hellish in every possible way.
Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, but this thing is pretty bad. It tells the story (for reasons nobody really knows) of a mouse from Russia who finds himself lost in New York City and wants to reunite with his family because that’s what lost kids do.
Let’s start with the animation itself, which is actually kind of crude and off-putting. It’s dark and brown and depressing, and every scene is cloaked in an atmosphere so downbeat that watching this thing makes you genuinely sad. The songs are okay (“Somewhere Out There” is a bit of a classic, yes), but you’re not gonna remember most of ’em when the credits roll.
No? Okay, well you can forget those criticisms if you like. If you enjoy bad animation and forgettable songs and the fact that this is one of the gloomiest children’s movies ever made, that’s fine: you just can’t forgive An American Tail of its worst crime. Yes, the worst crime this film ever committed just happens to be the worst crime that absolutely any film can commit: it’s boring. Like, really boring. And unless you’re watching this through nostalgia goggles and remembering the scenes through the sheer power of “Oh, yeah, I recall this moment” moments, this’ll have you snoring before little Fievel Mousekewitz (ugh) even gets off the boat in America. Send him back, I say.
Redeeming Features: “Somewhere Out There” is annoyingly sentimental, but it’s sort of also the most beautiful song ever written, isn’t it?
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%