Capsule Legacy

An American Tail (1986)

Saw this one with both my daughters at an Alamo Drafthouse screening. My almost-4-year old was shattered by the story of a kid separated from his family; it was the first time I saw her cry during a movie since Finding Nemo. Her palpable relief at their reunion in the ending was contagious to her daddy.

This is a surprisingly bleak and detailed look at immigrant life in late-19th century New York City. I found much of it quite good, especially in the first half when the story focused on Fievel. The second half, centered around an uprising against cats (kinda-sorta pro-unionization parable?) isn’t quite as rich or emotional.

The songs are hit-or-miss (“Somewhere Out There” is an all-timer, while the one with the friendly cat is completely disposable). The animation is quite good, especially the use of color. Hues range from gloomy bluish-brownish-gray to an almost amber-tinted warmth.

And the patriotic tone actually feels earned as the movie acknowledges the flaws and darkness of our country; that it could still settle on a message of hope is inspiring.

Is It Good?

Good (5/8)

Note: This capsule review was originally published elsewhere. If I watch this movie again, I might expand this to a full-length review.

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