An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
April 17, 2018
(The Channel Awesome logo is displayed, followed by the title sequence)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. In 1986, Don Bluth released the animated classic An American Tail.
(Footage of the movie is shown)
NC (vo): With an aggressive yet still heartfelt tone, it chronicled the lives of a family separated, used clever commentary to display the expectation versus the reality of immigrants arriving in America, and showed the power of the fighting spirit to locate what you thought was lost forever.
NC: And then the sequel came out. (a shot of the poster for said sequel, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, is displayed in the corner) It's a cowboy movie! (grins and nods)
(The title for this movie is displayed, followed by footage of it. The high-pitched and sped-up YouTube Audio Library track "Horses to Water" by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena plays throughout)
NC (vo): Released in 1991, Fievel Goes West clearly has little connection with the original in terms of tone, animation, or even the people who made it, and instead decides to make a goofy western. I don't know why this movie exists, why they took this angle with it, or why fate was so cruel to make it Jimmy Stewart's last role. But, here we are. Does it have any charm, brilliance or charisma on par with the original? Did John Cleese turn down the role of (A shot of Cogsworth appears in the corner) Cogsworth to play the villain in this instead?
(Cut to a clip of Fawlty Towers: Basil Fawlty jumping up and down, looking up and shaking his fist in frustration)
Basil: OH, THANK YOU, GOD! THANK YOU SO BLOODY MUCH!
NC: (grudgingly) Let's take a look at Fievel Goes West.
(The movie starts, showing Fievel having a dream about embarking on an adventure with his hero, the dog Sheriff Wylie Burp)
NC (vo): It opens with a fantasy Fievel is having about his hero, Wylie Burp.
NC: (saddened) Jimmy Stewart's last character is named Wylie Burp?! Can't we just say...
(Cut to a commercial for Campbell's Home Cookin' Soup)
NC (vo): ...this voiceover was his last appearance?
Announcer (Jimmy Stewart): It's Home Cookin' Soup.
NC: It's not much, but it's a bit more dignity.
NC (vo): So, (sighs) Wylie Burp is surrounded by the Cactus Cat Gang until Fievel comes in to save the day.
Wylie Burp (Stewart): (to Fievel) It's too tough, kid. Get out while you still can.
NC: (as Wylie) You can still have a good sequel; leave this one to the direct-to-video market.
NC (vo): Despite the style being different, it is still very good animation. It just doesn't allow itself to capture the charm of the original. In fact, it openly stops it half the time, like when Tanya tries to sing "Somewhere Out There" from the last film.
(We cut back to the real world, showing the Mousekewitz family living in a barrel, while Tanya is singing "Somewhere Out There")
Tanya (Catherine Cavadini): (singing) ...and loving me– (Suddenly, a tomato is thrown at her, irritating her) ...and loving me–
(Suddenly, several more bits of produce are being thrown at the mouse hole from whence she is singing; the produce is being thrown by humans!)
Papa Mousekewitz: Maybe they will throw some fruit for dessert.
(As he says this, a tomato is thrown straight through their hole)
NC: (confused) How does that even work?
NC (vo): Are there actual human people in the city who are like...
NC: (shaking his fist in the air) "Lousy James Horner singing mice! I substitute questioning this with throwing produce!" (pretends to throw something)
NC (vo): It also looks like Tanya's gone through kind of a growth spurt, looking more like a teenager now, despite her looking close to the same age as her brother in the first.
NC: Maybe it's the same altering growth spurt the National Lampoon's Vacation kids go through. (An image of all the different actors portraying the Griswold kids in National Lampoon's Vacation series is shown)
Papa: I thought things would be better in America. In Russia, my violins were famous. At least we never went hungry.
NC: (as Papa) I mean, granted, we were on fire, but my violin, yo!
(A passing train riding on a track above the barrel house rises by, giving the house and the family a bit of a shake. Then we see Tiger the cat speaking with his girlfriend, Miss Kitty, who is leaving)
NC (vo): The train they're under messes up their house...you'd think they'd be more prepared for that, living under there...while Fievel's friend Tiger, voiced again by Dom DeLuise, says goodbye to his feline love named Miss Kitty, who's going West.
Miss Kitty (Amy Irving): How do I say this? I just want a cat...who's more like a dog.
(Tiger is stunned at that comment. NC is confused)
NC: Isn't that kind of like (image of...) a seal saying she wants someone like (image of...) a shark?
(A group of cats suddenly shows up and attacks the mice)
NC (vo): And because the first film opened with a cat attack, why not this one, too? Except where the first one had "oppressive Russian" commentary, this one has...
(The movie's antagonist, an aristocrat cat named Cat R. Waul, appears)
Cat R. Waul (John Cleese): Pay attention.
NC: ..."John Cleese in a monocle" commentary.
(Fievel rushes to grab his blue hat)
NC (vo): Fievel, like a dumbass, thinks he can fight them, transforming his blue hat into a white cowboy hat.
(Fievel turns the hat inside out to make the white cowboy hat, just as said)
NC: I don't know what's stranger: the fact that...
(The scene from the first film is briefly shown, with Fievel receiving the blue hat from Papa)
NC (vo): ...such a huge symbol from the last film is turned into a throwaway joke...
NC: ...or that Fievel's dad probably never realized it could do that!
(The scene of Fievel making a cowboy hat is shown again)
NC: (as Papa) Oh, my God! I could've turned that thing inside out and sold it for a fortune! How do the mechanics of that work?
(The Mousekewitzes fall into the sewers, where they find a crowd of mice listening to a rat in a cowboy clothes...or rather, a marionette controlled by Cat R. Waul from above)
NC (vo): The mice get scared into the sewers where they come across... (sighs) Well, look at that. An everyday ordinary mouse they can trust.
Cat R. Waul: On the frontier, cats and mice help each other.
(Cat R. Waul entices the mice into moving yet again to a better life out west. Tiger chases the train, trying to catch up with his friends, but is thrown off course by a pack of angry dogs)
NC (vo): Cleese's character, named Cat R. Waul, tells them that out West, mice and cats get along, and he convinces them all to buy tickets to head out there. Tiger finds out too late, though, and tries to find the train the Fievel's family is going on. He gets chased by dogs, though...for over two minutes.
(Some snippets of the wacky scene of dogs chasing Tiger are shown)
Tiger: (running from a dog and holding its tongue at the same time) Cat got your tongue?
NC: No, but he's got way too much screen time!
(At the train, different mice from various countries sing about their dreams becoming true out West)
NC (vo): And because we need another "No Cats in America" song...
Female Opera Mouse: (singing) Life in New York City, / It's full of dread and fuss...
NC: Instantly lost me. Next.
(He takes out a remote and fast-forwards the number)
NC: Ah, maybe I should give this another chance...
(He presses a button to play the number at normal speed)
Hillbilly Mouse: (singing) We'll banjo!
Hillbilly Mouse 2: (singing) We'll fiddle!
New Yorker Mouse: (singing) No garbage and no landlords...
NC: Nope, I was right the first time.
(He fast-forwards the musical number to its end. While on the train, Fievel wanders into the livestock car, where he overhears the cats revealing their plot to turn the mice into "mouseburgers")
NC (vo): While on the train, though, Fievel comes across Cat R. Waul and hears his evil plan, of course.
Cat R. Waul: When my empire at Green River is complete... / Of course we will eat the mice, but only after we have exploited their labors.
NC: (stunned) Actually, shit. Why is there legit commentary in this? And I was just too young to realize it?
NC (vo): I really don't want to say there's clever satire in a film like this.
(One part of "Way Out West" musical number is shown)
Mr. Whiskers: (singing) All the streets are paved with nuggets...
Male Mouse: (singing) Boy, have I been told!
NC (vo): Can I selfishly ignore the good part of a film just this once?
(Fievel falls from the wooden beam right into Cat R. Waul's paws. He is thrown from the train by Cat R.'s hench-spider, T.R. Chula)
NC (vo): The villains stumble across Fievel, though, and make it look like he fell off the train so the other mice don't alter their plans.
Mouse: (holding Papa Mousekewitz back) Don't be a fool, Mousekewitz!
(Fievel lands in the desert)
NC (vo): So, to quote The Hangover sequels, (A clip of Phil (Bradley Cooper) from The Hangover: Part II is shown, saying...) "It happened again." Fievel is lost and separated from his family. Honestly, it's such a cliff-note in this version that, while in the original, they mourn for several days, here, they don't even give a solid minute.
(The Mousekewitzes arrive in Green River, Utah, discovering an abandoned town)
Mama Mousekewitz: I think we got snookered.
Papa: No, Mama, this is what the land of opportunity looks like.
NC: (as Papa) I mean, a little spit and polish...I had a son, didn't I? Ah, whatever. I wonder if they invented sarsaparilla yet.
(Cat R. approaches the mice and proposes to build a new saloon together. Meanwhile, Fievel is wandering aimlessly through the desert, as is Tiger, who has found his way out west as well)
NC (vo): Cat R. Waul dupes the mice into helping him build the beat-up town into a sunny paradise, as Fievel tries his best to get home to his family. He even comes across Tiger, and they both confuse each other for a mirage.
Fievel (Phillip Glasser): Hi, mirage of Tiger.
Tiger: Hi, mirage of Fievel.
(They part ways)
NC: See, kids, that's what happens when you drink cactus juice.
(A clip from Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Desert" is shown, showing Sokka going nuts from drinking too much cactus juice)
Sokka: Nothing's quenchier! It's the quenchiest!
(As the night comes, Tiger gets captured by mouse Indians, hanging over a fire)
NC (vo): Tiger is captured by tribe of mice... Oh, this will age well.
(The small chief chants something, and the mouse Indians cry out and bring the vegetables to Tiger)
NC: Just get to the part where they confuse him for a god...
(The mouse Indians are now shown bowing to Tiger)
NC (vo): Oh, my God, that actually happens?!
NC: I was kidding!
NC (vo): Why is it every tribe in everything mistakes what they've never seen as a god?!
NC: (holding a green office marker) Wow, I've never seen this marker before. It must be god!
(Fievel is picked up by a hawk, dropped over the mouse Indian village and reunites with Tiger)
NC (vo): Fievel comes across Tiger, though, and Tiger shows him how to get to town.
Tiger: (whispering to Fievel) The only reason I'm not a moccasin right now is because they think I'm a god. I'll join you as soon as I can.
NC: (as Tiger) There's so many more stereotypes to be explored here. I'm not sure we got to the cannibalism part yet.
(Fievel catches a passing tumbleweed, which takes him to Green River)
NC (vo): Tiger tells him to just hop on a tumbleweed, which apparently has really great GPS for towns in the middle of nowhere, as the animals sing "Rawhide", because...I don't know, westerns.
(As the tumbleweed with Fievel inside it rolls, the animals in the desert sing "Rawhide". The version of the song that's heard in this sequence is the Blues Brothers' version)
Rabbit: Move 'em on.
Turtle: Head 'em up!
Scorpion: Head 'em up.
Coyote: Move 'em on!
Wildcat: Move 'em on.
Spider: Head 'em up!
NC: Hey, that song was supposed to be sung by The Good Ol' Boys. (A shot of The Good Ol' Boys leading singer from The Blues Brothers is shown)
(As soon as Fievel arrives in Green River, he quickly reunites with his family, who are pulling the rope)
NC (vo): Sure enough, Fievel arrives at the town, making the entire time he's been lost in this movie just 12 minutes. Even the family doesn't really look that relieved to see him!
Tanya: (hugging Fievel in relief) Oh, Fievel. What happened to you?
Fievel: Well, I got lost in this desert, and this giant hawk...
NC: (as Papa, pretending to be holding the rope) It's great to see you, but we got a rope to pull and we already used up all our emotion for this scene in the last film. (Beat) Why were you even gone in this one?
(However, Fievel is unable to convince everyone of Cat R.'s plans to kill them)
NC (vo): Fievel tries telling them about the cat's evil plan, but nobody believes him. (The Giant Mouse of Minsk from the first movie is shown) Because why should they believe the kid who got rid of all the cats originally, anyway?
(Again, Fievel overhears more of Cat R. Waul's nefarious plot from the above)
NC (vo): The cats, of course, reveal their evil plan again in front of Fievel, showing how a giant mousetrap is gonna turn them all into mouseburgers.
Cat R. Waul: Let the saliva flow!
Cats: (cheering) Mouseburgers!
(In the back of the hall, the female opera mouse is singing "Ride of the Valkyries" on the stage)
NC: (as Cat R. Waul) Oh, I forgot. We're holding auditions. Just ignore...
NC (vo): ...that last part about turning you all into mouseburgers. You all fell for a British puppet pretending to be a cowboy. I'm assuming you're pretty dumb.
(Cat R. Waul walks on the stage to sing himself, but Fievel sticks a fork in his behind, making him jump out of his clothing so high, he breaks the floor above and falls right into the arms of a plump human lady playing cards with her husband)
NC (vo): Fievel sticks a fork in him, though, leading to...well, I'll let the scene speak for itself.
(The lady squeezes the scared Cat R. Waul right into her breasts, creeping NC out)
Lady: Pussy! Pussy, pussy, pussy! Pussy, pussy! Oh, pussy!
(Cat R. Waul slips out of the lady's hands and jumps back into his clothes)
NC: (bewildered beyond all reason) Is there a word that exists to describe how uncomfortable that was?! (Beat) I don't think there is, so I'm just gotta make one up. (tries to think of such word) That was uneckhable! That was a very uneckhable scene! Uneckhable!
(We go to a commercial. After coming back, we cut to Cat R. hearing Tanya singing and becoming enchanted by her voice. He sends Tanya to Miss Kitty, who is now a performer at the saloon, and she reveals that she came at Cat R.'s request)
NC (vo): So Cat R. Waul hears Tanya sing and falls in love with her voice, so he takes her to Miss Kitty to transform her into a star.
Tanya: (feeling sad) I'm not pretty.
Miss Kitty: And says who? You can be whatever you want if you believe in yourself.
NC: Except in a good sequel. That ship has sailed.
(Some time later, Tanya is up to perform in front of several cats in the saloon. Meanwhile, Fievel gets captured by T.R. Chula and is put into a bottle)
NC (vo): Cat R. Waul previews her on stage as Fievel tries to escape one of his henchmen.
(The bottle breaks as Tanya holds a very high note. All the cats in the saloon pay attention to Tanya, exclaiming in awe. At the same time, Tanya's dress becomes transparent by the light of a nearby candle)
NC: What was up with scene...
NC (vo): ...through her dress there for a second?
NC: (shifts eyes) That was a little uncomfortable. I mean, not as uncomfortable as this.
(Cut back to the scene of the lady squeezing Cat R. Waul into her breasts)
Lady: Pussy, pussy, pussy! Pussy, pussy!
NC: That was uneckhable!
(As Fievel gets chased by T.R. Chula around the stage, Tanya and the cats sing "The Girl You Left Behind")
NC (vo): I have to be honest, it drives me nuts how catchy this goddamn song is. When you hear it once, it's in your head for the rest of the day.
Tanya: (singing) So where's the girl you left behind?
Cats: (singing) She's waitin' for her sister! / We won't stop until we're home, / We'll hug and hug and kiss her...
NC: It sounds like "Beef. It's What's For Dinner" song, except with the leprechaun on crack playing the fiddle.
Tanya: (singing) So tell me you will never roam!
Cats: (singing) We swear we won't go roaming!
NC: (adjusts his glasses) I like my American Tail songs to be a little more off-key, thank you very much. (The clip of "Somewhere Out There" sequence from the first movie plays out)
(While walking out of town, Fievel stops to talk with an elderly bloodhound sleeping outside the jail, discovering that he is actually Wylie Burp)
NC (vo): Fievel realizes he has no one to turn to...which is kind of ironic as, being gone for a while, the family just kind of abandons in through most of the movie...so he talks to a lazy dog, who eventually figures out is his hero, Wylie Burp.
Fievel: You gotta help us now!
Wylie: Let the sleeping dog lie, son.
NC: Isn't that what he said the first time he was off in this movie?
(Fievel convinces Wylie to help and train Tiger as a lawman and as a dog. He returns to Tiger in the Indian village, who is reluctant at first, but then realizes the new persona might help him win Miss Kitty)
NC (vo): He tells him he's too old to stop the cats himself, but he could train a younger dog to fight for him. Since "dog" spelled backwards is "god", I guess that means Tiger is qualified. So he agrees to be trained by them, leading to probably one of the film's strangest lines.
Fievel: Anyone can be a god, but...it takes grit to be a dog.
(Fade to black. NC is bemused)
NC: There's so much weird in that sentence, I don't even know how to tackle it. I guess I'll just say...it's dumb.
(The next morning, Tiger meets Wylie, and they begin the training)
NC (vo): They meet in the desert, and Wylie Burp teaches him how to be a dog.
Wylie: You wanna intimidate someone? Give 'em the laaaazy eye. (He bugs his right eye out, scaring Tiger and Fievel)
NC: (as Wylie) But don't do it too much. I had a sailor friend deface himself that way. (Popeye the Sailor, who almost always has his left eye closed, is shown)
NC (vo): Tiger gives it a try, leading to sounds I guarantee you'll hear in your nightmares tonight.
(As Tiger bugs his eyes out, he grunts and screams in pain and effort)
NC: It sounds like the grunts of torture Han Solo makes in Empire Strikes Back.
(The said scene is shown, with Han Solo grunting as Darth Vader tortures him. When we cut to Lando Calrissian, the screaming of Tiger is now heard until Vader walks out. Back to the movie, Tiger, Wylie and Fievel go back to Green River to fight the cats, who attempt to kill the mice at sunset during the opening of Cat R.'s saloon using a giant mousetrap. Tiger, Wylie and Fievel intervene before Cat R. can cut the ribbon and battle the cats)
NC (vo): Tiger goes through all the training, and the three of them walk into town to stop the cats. Cat R. Waul's ready to set off the giant mousetrap in the slowest ribbon cut in history, but our heroes stop him. Like any classic Western, instead of guns, they use slingshots, but they don't seem to work. So they use the lazy eye.
(Tiger, Wylie and Fievel all bug both of their eyes out, which is animated really expressively)
NC: So how many animators were having seizures while making this?
Cat R. Waul: (behind the machine gun) Freeze, you miserable vermin! (fires out of it at will)
NC: (as Cat R. Waul) Don't make me use the only actual gun we have in this old Western town!
(Fievel corners Cat R., taking control of the machine gun)
Fievel: Now you freeze, Cat R. Waul!
(T.R. Chula is shown at the top of the saloon, threatening to throw Miss Kitty down)
T.R. Chula (Jon Lovitz): Don't pull it, kid, or you've seen the last of Miss Kitty.
Miss Kitty: Get your hands off me!
NC: Ah, that's pretty embarrassing when a spider is holding you hostage.
(Shelob from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is shown)
NC (vo): Unless that thing is written by J.R.R. Tolkien...
NC: ...I don't see why this should be an issue!
(Tiger rescues Miss Kitty and uses a pitchfork and Chula's web as a lasso with him trapped on it to hurtle Cat R. and his men out of town by having them piled on part of the trap, which the heroes use as a catapult)
NC (vo): Tiger saves her, though, and they use the mousetrap as a catapult...
NC: Doesn't matter if the pun's intended.
(The cats fly into the air and land into a mailbag, which a passing train picks up and leaves)
NC (vo): ...and Cat R. Waul gets caught up by the same disturbing woman from before.
(The plump lady, whom Cat R. Waul encountered before, grabs him. In the next scene, a humiliated Cat R. is in baby clothes while the lady rubs his head)
Lady: Mommy's going to take care of you forever and ever and ever! (chuckles)
NC: (arms crossed) Well, that wasn't nearly as uneckhable as before, but still... Ew.
(The water tower flows with 9,000 gallons of water again, making Green River bloom with thousands of flowers, and the town's mice throw a party)
NC (vo): So the day is saved as, I'm assuming, nuclear water causes the plant life to grow that fast, and they have themselves a good old-fashioned hootena...squeak.
NC: Hey, I'm almost near the end. I'm not working long on a joke (points to his right) when freedom is around the corner!
(Fievel runs to Wylie in the desert, who is watching a sun setting)
NC (vo): The almost fitting irony is the final words of Jimmy Stewart in this movie are actually kind of beautiful when you realize this is his last role.
Wylie: Just remember, Fievel. One man's sunset is another man's dawn. I don't know what's out there beyond those hills...
(NC sniffles, trying to hold back tears)
Wylie: ...but if you ride yonder, heart open...I think one day, you'll find that you're the hero you've been looking for.
(Fievel is shown holding Wylie's sheriff badge, and they both smile at each other)
NC: (sobbing) He's been dead for years! I am not letting Fievel Goes West get to me!
(Fievel turns his hat back to its original color and form, and him and Wylie look at the sunset in a CGI panoramic shot)
NC (vo; as Wylie): How in the Sam Hill did you do that? Oh, who cares. Check out this amazing CGI effect that we'll show off before any other animated fil- (The poster for Beauty and the Beast, which came out the same weekend as Fievel Goes West, is shown) Doggone it.
(The movie ends)
NC: And that was An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. (Pause) It's definitely not the first one.
(The clips from the film are shown as NC lists his final thoughts on it)
NC (vo): Honestly, it's fine for just a little kids movie. It's visually interesting, animated well, colorful, energetic...but it's still an American Tail film. It has a high standard to live up to, and it simply doesn't do it. If you just want to give your kids something goofy to watch, it's fine for that. But if anyone is looking for something deeper, you're riding the wrong horse into the sunset.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The scene of the plump lady squeezing Cat R. Waul into her breasts is shown once more)
Lady: Pussy! Pussy, pussy, pussy! Pussy, pussy! Oh!
(The credits roll, followed by the Channel Awesome logo)