“Just remember, Fievel – one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn. I don’t know what’s out there beyond those hills. But if you ride yonder… head up, eyes steady, heart open… I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for.”**
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I like this one better than the first one. Yeah yeah, I know… the first one is the classic, and this one is like some stupid direct-to-video reject. But actually, it wasn’t. It was in theaters. I remember going to see this in theaters at the El Con Mall in Tucson with my dad (other people might have been there, I don’t remember). I remember loving it. I remember thinking that this was much better than the first one. It was finally a movie I understood (I tend to always seem to think I understand movies better if they’re set where I lived…), and one that I found hilarious.
You might be wondering why I didn’t review this movie right after An American Tail. I have my reasons. An American Tail was directed by Don Bluth. Fievel Goes West did not have Don Bluth attached in any way at all: He didn’t write, he didn’t direct. As far as I can tell, he didn’t do anything with this movie. It was a Spielberg property. And I hate to say it, but I think this might be part of the reason this movie might be, arguably better.
The story is honestly pretty much the same as the first movie. But instead of Manhattan, substitute in the old west. The family hears that things are much better out west and that cats are nice to mice, and decide to move. Fievel’s curiosity leads him to discover a horrible plan by the cats in which they are only being nice to them for a time, and will eat them all at once. Fievel is forced off the train by hench-tarantula Chula and gets lost AGAIN. He wanders the desert for a while, finds Tiger (who had gone after fievel to say goodbye) and then he makes his way to the village, where he is reunited with his family and he has to work to stop the plan by the cats. So it’s very similar, but there are enough differences to make this a stand-alone movie that you won’t just sit there and go “well this is exactly like the first one.”
One of the great things about this movie is that, finally, we get to actually know the characters. Sure… we may not still know much about mom or dad, but Fievel’s sister Tanya actually has a storyline! We get to know what she wants to do when she grows up. We know her strengths, her insecurities, etc. It’s also nice because we also get to know Fievel a little bit more. In the first movie he just seemed a bit… dull. In this movie he’s fiesty, smart, and a typical little boy. He knows it’s up to him to save the mice and he’s not afraid to come face to face with the boss cat or the crazy Tarantula.
Tiger also gets a bit more character development, although I’m going to save his storyline for my complaints. But yeah, we get to know him a bit more, and get more of his humor, which in my opinion is great. He has a love interest, Ms. Kitty, that by no way takes center stage, but it’s nice to have. She also is a kinda cliche character (the old west saloon performer/whore…? Am I allowed to suggest that in a kid movie?) but lends some good advice to Tanya. All in all, it’s just good to see a few more storylines going around than just the one following Fievel. It’s refreshing, and I feel like I have gotten to know the characters a bit more.
One of the strengths of this movie really is the villain. I probably wouldn’t like this movie as much if it weren’t for Cat. R. Waul. He’s a sophisticated cat that is the leader of the more cowboy-y cats voiced by John Cleese. That should just give you an example of the type of humor that comes out of this guys mouth. The delivery is amazing. He’s so serious about it, but the words that come out are just hilarious. John Lovitz voices the tarantula Chula, who is sort of like his henchman. Again… I bet you can understand the type of humor involved. They’re hilarious but threatening and maniacal. You actually do worry that these mice will get eaten.
One more thing I think is just hilarious. I haven’t even mentioned the “sheriff” Wylie Burp (yes a play on Wyatt Earp) who is an old dog who apparently used to be a big deal (he’s sort of Fievel’s hero). He literally sits there and does nothing for most of the movie, until Fievel needs his help to stop the cats. He complains he’s too old and that he needs to train a replacement – a new dog to be the sheriff. Fievel doesn’t know another dog, so enlists Tiger to be a dog. The next five minutes are dog lessons, and the ways a cat would react. For kids, it’s hilarious. This is the thing I think about when I think of this movie. Tiger rolling around, fetching newspapers, and barking.
Alright. So I like a lot of things about this movie. What don’t I like? Actually, there are plenty of faults with this movie. The first is that tiger’s storyline has been a bit overdone and some would argue that it could be a bit racist (as is apparently everything these days). He wanders in the desert and the natives find him and get ready to eat him, then realize he fits the description of their god. So he gets worshipped. Yeah. That’s been done to death. In fact, gimme a few reviews, and I’ll be talking about it again! The Native American mice are a bit… well, think the indians in Peter Pan. They could have been done a bit more realistic I guess.
Another thing that I kinda don’t like about this movie is the really odd relationship that develops between our villain Cat. R. Waul and Fievel’s sister Tanya. He adores her singing and wants to help her dream come true, to the point that he was going to save her from the giant mouse trap that was going to kill everyone else. Yeah… I think after that she wouldn’t have done a damn thing for you. For a smart cat, he didn’t exactly think of that. Plus, it’s just… weird. Does he love her? Is it a father/daughter thing? Yeah. He has feelings for her and adores her singing, but we never actually know what these feelings are.
Any of my other qualms with this movie are smaller details. I don’t even know that I could list any here, but as I watch it, there’s just some random things that I go “what?”
This movie isn’t nearly as deep as Don Bluth’s An American Tail. Sure it mirrors the idea that people moved from the city out west because they heard there was opportunity, but that’s about where the truth ends and we just get a movie that makes fun of westerns. Which is fine. As I said, I actually enjoy it much more than the first one. It’s not as boring.
In the end, I would recommend An American Tail: Fievel Goes West to anyone who has kids. If you were a fan of the original when you were a kid but haven’t seen this, it might be worth a rent. You’ll learn more about your favorite characters.
**just a side note. I learned recently that this was James Stewarts last movie he was in before he died (he voiced Wylie Burp). If you don’t know who that is, go check imdb. I guarantee you he’s been in at least one movie you’ve seen. They’re all classics. I find this fact a bit sad, seeing as what an amazing actor he was. At the same time, I quite enjoy the last lines of the movie (see quote above) and believe those might have been almost perfect last words for him to ever utter in a movie.
I give An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991) a 3.75 out of 5.
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