An American Tail (1986)

Genres - Adventure, Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Animated Musical, Children's Fantasy, Family-Oriented Adventure  |   Release Date - Nov 21, 1986 (USA)  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Matthew Doberman

In the early 1980s, Don Bluth led a team of animators away from Disney to pursue the kind of ambitious feature-length fare that the House of Mouse seemed to have forgotten. The defectors' sophomore effort was the impressive An American Tail, a film that maintains the Disney touch for filmmaking but leaves some of the sugar-coating behind. The film tackles the American immigrant experience, and doesn't shy far away from showing either the hardships that caused émigrés to leave their homelands or the hardships they faced on upon arrival. Despite this occasional, and welcomed, earnestness however, the lively animation, spirited voicing (Dom DeLuise in particular) and James Horner's score (including the lovely "Somewhere Out There" ) keep this an uplifting, and often touching, experience. Steven Speilberg produced the movie, but his and Bluth's talent for storytelling occasionally falters, and the film never quite achieves the Disney polish. Moreover, while the story follows what is clearly a Jewish experience of flight from Russian pogroms, it never makes specific reference of the Mouskewitz family's ethnic background, a decision that some saw less as an attempt to ensure universal appeal, and more as a cowardly cultural duck. In general, though, Bluth and company display the same willingness to explore serious themes as they did in their first feature, The Secret of NIMH. Though highly enjoyable, the film is definitely darker than most kids' fare. But with serious themes comes the potential for lasting impact, and as such, An American Tail offers much more than just an hour and a half of mind-candy.