Wednesday, July 29, 2020

in the family for three generations

I have not watched many kids films for this blog. Even when going through movie fixtures from my childhood, there were a few child-friendly films but few made primarily for kids. Today, though, we've got An American Tail and I do not recall the last time I watched it. Once upon a time I loved this movie and had all the lyrics to all the songs memorized.


As I wait for the first song, I get sidetracked by the history. After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, some blamed Jews, and a series of pogroms followed. The Cossacks attack the town of Shostka because there are Jewish families there. The Mousekewitzes are just one.

And, oh shit, I had forgotten that "There Are No Cats in America" begins with Papa explaining how his parents were killed.

Damn, kids movie.

And then other mice tell their sad tales in between joyful choruses. And, already I'm imagining the way a movie like this influenced me when I was just 10 years old. Refugees just looking for a place to live and the movie doesn't tell us who the Cossacks are or why they burn down houses. But, it's pretty clear the Mouskewitzes need somewhere better and maybe we know there are cats here and the streets are not paved with cheese, but immigrants have been dreaming of better lives here since before it was a country, and by 11 I knew that, but I'd also surely heard plenty of anti-immigrant talk from people at school, in church, at home. A movie like this could stand up against that kind of thing.

Fievel lands on Liberty Island alone after a storm at sea, and ends up befriended by Henri Le Pigeon, a bird with a nice positive attitude. So Fievel sets out to the New York City proper and gets caught up by Warren T. Rat and stuck in a job he doesn't want.
(We hear kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and it anachronistically includes "under God.")
He escapes, and teams up withTony, a streetwise kid who falls for Bridget, who is out preaching about the unfairness of cats. Then off to Tammany Hall, where Honest John is, of course, corrupt. And, openly drunk.

And, I wrote a few weeks back about babies in baskets and Fievel sleeps in a large baby basket floating in water the night he and Tanya sing "Somewhere Out There." Fievel, set adrift in that storm, sent into the city by Henri, to work by Warren T., to Tammany Hall by Bridget, he's one more lost child turned hero because despite, or because of, fate throwing so much at him. And, what kind of hero? An immigrant who just wants to be reunited with his family, but also, to be good for those around him. And he inspires the secret weapon they use against the cats.

And, his quest becomes a shrunken down version of something epic when he ventures below ground, barely survives an interaction with giant roaches and what I guess is an eel only to learn who the Shakespeare-quoting Warren T. really is.

And, then he meets Tiger. And, "A Duo" has my daughter Saer going on about how wholesome this movie is, but it's talking about different groups of immigrants forced to compete with each other for, at best, power, at worst, the freedom to just live how they want. But wrapped up in a cute package. Cute and a little depressing. Even after Fievel helps beat the cats, he's still got more travails ahead. Alone in the rain.

Except, in movies, rain is often cleansing, and the story already has mythic overtones. So, after proclaiming that he doesn't need his family anymore, he awakens to the sound of his sister calling his name, and all is well.

No comments:

Post a Comment