Full of high and low comedy, virtuosity and good spirits, ''An American Tail: Fievel Goes West'' well deserves the sobriquet ''family film''; there really is something here for everyone in the family.
Directors Phil Nibbelink
and Simon Wells have, along with a large band of gifted animation talents, produced a feature that emphasizes speed, motion, bright colors, shifts of perspective, and eye-popping computer graphics all served up in a stylish rush. Boxoffice prospects look exceptionally good.
The feature finds the title mouse, Fievel Mousekewitz, still living in the Bronx with his family of Russian-Jewish immigrants. A mass attack by cats drives the family underground (in a super rapids ride through the sewers) where they and a swarm of other, similarly harried mice are persuaded by a ticket-bearing, spiel-speaking mouse to head out west for a new settlement. The assembled mice agree, not knowing that the mouse is a puppet front for the evil feline Cat R. Waul, who together with his spider aide, T.R. Chula, and a gang of cats, plans to use these immigrants as the basis of a regular voluntary food supply.
There is also a subplot featuring Fievel's cat buddy, the tubby Tiger, and that fat cat's girlfriend, the saloon-singing Miss Kitty. They, together with Fievel and a broken-down old western hound named Wylie Burp, triumph over the cats in the climactic showdown.
However, the movie is less about its story than its technique, which is a delightfully relentless, zooming onslaught. Fievel goes from one trouble spot to another, from traps by alley cats to falls from moving trains to capture by a buzzard to being bottled up by the spider. And when Fievel gets a rest, its Tiger's turn for misadventure.
These episodes unwind in the densest concentration of computer graphics effects ever marshalled for a major feature release, and angles and perspectives spin vertiginously and continuously, the dazzle compounded by the flamboyantly bright coloring.
However, the animators have not neglected their character work, and the individuals are portrayed in elastic eloquence, with faces and whole bodies undergoing comically expressive transformations. The bulbous Tiger goes through some particularly circular transformations while the villainous Cat R. Waul (who seems based on the Fox in ''Pinocchio'') is all calculating angles.
The three main songs are bouncy and appropriate, though not as memorable as the original's ''Somewhere Out There, '' which gets a short reprise from Fievel's older sister Tanya, whose singing aspirations form part of the plot's engine. The theme from ''Rawhide'' gets a short and amusing (for grownups) run-through. James Horner
's score is a nice western pastiche, from Copeland to hoedown.
The voices are all well-done, with John Cleese
doing a drolly supercilious turn as Cat R. Waul and Jon Lovitz
a chip-on-the-right-shoulder T.R. Chula. As the voice of Wylie Burp, James Stewart was an extremely effective choice, and his denouement benediction provides a perfect closing sentiment. Dom DeLuise (Tiger), Phillip Glasser
(Fievel), Nehemiah Persoff
(Poppa Mousekewitz) and Erica Yohn
(Mama Mousekewitz) all return from the original, while Amy Irving
performs for Miss Kitty and Cathy Cavadini
is perfectly on key and off as Tanya.
AN AMERICAN TAIL: FIEVEL GOES WEST
Steven Spielberg Presents
Producers Steven Spielberg, Robert Watts
Directors Phil Nibbelink
, Simon Wells
Story Charles Swenson
Screenplay Flint Dille
Created by David Kirschner
Original songs James Horner
, Will Jennings
Music James Horner
Casting Nancy Nayor
, C.S.A., Valerie McCaffrey
Art director Neil Ross
Supervising animators Nancy Beiman
, Kristof Serrand
, Rob Stevenhagen
Special effects supervisor Scott Santoro
Supervising editor Nick Fletcher
Fievel Phillip Glasser
Cat R. Waul John Cleese
Wylie James Stewart
Tiger Dom DeLuise
Papa Nehemiah Persoff
Chula Jon Lovitz
Miss Kitty Amy Irving
Tanya Cathy Cavadini
Mama Erica Yohn
Running time -- 75 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
(c) The Hollywood Reporter