A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed An American Tail and found it….mediocre. For whatever reason, I decided to give it a second chance, and I’m glad I did.
First of all, it should be noted that when I watched it for the review, I was using iTunes. This time I scooped up a dirt cheap used DVD I found, and played it on an actual TV. This helped tremendously: it seems that a lot of the choppy animation I noted seems to have been more an issue with the video quality than the animation itself. There’s still a degree of stiffness and jerkiness present, but it’s not noticeably worse than anything in NIMH. And while I mentioned in an offhand manner that the backgrounds were pretty, they become breathtaking when seen on a screen larger than my laptop.
This, combined with getting acclimated to the art style and somewhat weird pacing, has prompted a re-evaluation of the movie – An American Tail is good. Perhaps not up to the heights of NIMH, but certainly better than Dumbo, to keep things in the perspective of my recent reviews. Well, it’s more uneven than Dumbo, but more ambitious, and I tend to value that more than something well polished but more colour-by-numbers.
A lot of my criticism still stands: the songs are unmemorable, the characterization is a bit thin, and the pacing could use some breathing room. But its faults are a lot less glaring when you aren’t being pulled out of the experience by animation problems.
I suppose this goes to illustrate how much of the emotional connection depends upon the animation. As I noted in my original review, there’s a lot of heart in this movie, and believable animation helps to elevate it above the story’s clunkier elements.
Nota Bene: When reviewing animated films in the future, I should take more care to ensure I have decent viewing conditions.