It’s time for another installment of Victorian Snark Theatre 3000! And this time we’ll be discussing Fievel Goes West (1991). As you guys know, I watch a lot of shitty long nineteenth century-inspired films with my good friend @VictorianMasc (whose blog can be found here) and we decided to turn them into blog posts.
Previous posts on VST3K include:
–Vanity Fair (2004)
–The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
–The Raven (2012)
My co-watchers and -authors, @VictorianMasc and @DrDouglasSmall, had never seen this film before and we had yet to watch an animated film for this series, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Full disclosure: I loved this film when I was a kid, and it kinda (?) holds up, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be a total dick about it. It’s what I do.
Brace yourself for a LOT of swearing and spoilers (obviously)
We didn’t even make it to the title screen before we had our first snark, which was, namely, to register our embarrassment at how many famous people were involved in the making of this film.
Our second moment of snark came with the title screen …
… which was accompanied by an all-American whip-crack followed by a plucky banjo.
Douglas: *hysterical laughter* Gee, is this a Western, by any remote chance? No need to be coy about, I guess.
We then open with Fievel Mousekewitz narrating a high noon, gun-slingin’ duel between the Cactus Cat Gang and a character called (*sigh*) . . . Wylie Burp.
Wylie Burp is played by an exhausted-sounding Jimmy Stewart (in fairness, he was 82 at the time) who stares down all these dopey cat chuckle-fucks and prepares to meet his maker.
Cowboy Fievel jumps down to help, but Wylie replies with “Get out while you still can”, which one can only assume was Jimmy Stewart speaking in reference to this film.
But it turns out that Fievel’s just playing pretend, and the scene quickly fades back to a particularly shitty New York hellscape.
I’m not exactly sure which part of New York Fievel lives in. Gramousey Park? Mousestoria? Ratbush?
(I’ll show myself out)
Anyway, the Mousekewitz family is up to their same old bullshit. Mama Mousekewitz is nagging people, Papa’s a twinkly-eyed old fool, and Tanya’s busking, shittily. She only knows one song, which she’s apparently been singing on a loop since the first American Tail film.
“BENEATH THE PAAAAALE MOOOOOONLIGHT”
Douglas: “Hey, remember the first film, which was better?”, asks the soundtrack.
The human neighbors start screaming and throwing tomatoes.
VictorianMasc: The population of New York is really jaded. “A singing mouse? Fuck ’em.”
But in all honesty, that novelty’s got to wear off real quick by the fifth rendition of the song. Mama Mousekewitz scrapes some tomato off the wall and grumbles, “Another night without cheese”, because free home-delivered groceries are apparently not enough for this bitch.
Can we all take a moment to marvel over Mother Mousekewitz’s huge jugs? One of the animators must have had a serious boob fetish, because we get a lot of cleavage in this film.
Then Papa Mousekewitz starts lamenting about America and gesticulating with his violin.
Papa: In Russia–
All Three of Us: Violin plays you!
This is when we noticed that the Mousekewitzes have a baby, in addition to a twelve year old and a seven year old.
Douglas: How old are the Mousekewitzes supposed to be?
VictorianMasc: *deadpan* Twenty-eight years old.
Then a train goes by and rattles around the little wooden crate they live in, and Papa Mousekewitz starts going off on one: “They call America the land of opportunity. Opportunity for what? For children to play in the filthy streets? To never see the sunshine?”
That sounds amazing. That sounds like the best possible childhood I could imagine.
But their bitching is interrupted by Fievel’s dweeby vegetarian cat friend, Tiger, who is in the process of having his ass dumped by his sultry, fed-up girlfriend (the imaginatively named Miss Kitty).
VictorianMasc: Uncomfortable cat cleavage klaxon!
Miss Kitty is heading west to find a fella who’s better at performative masculinity. What she really wants is “a cat that’s more like a dog”, because she’s all kinds of kinky.
Considering that I’m fatigued by Tiger about two sentences into his Woody Allen shtick, I can’t even imagine a full courtship between these two. She sprays on some stank-ass day-glo perfume, jumps on a passing taxi, and leaves Tiger alone with so many neuroses that his therapist will probably be able to pay off the mortgage on his beach house.
Douglas: She’s taking a … taxi to the Wild West? That is one decadent cat.
Then all hell breaks loose when cats attack the mice neighborhood. The attack is led by John Cleese, the dandiest cat you ever did see, who probably only took this role to pay for his second round of alimony (he divorced his second wife the year before).
The plan is to scare the ever-loving bejesus (be-cheesus?) out of the mice, but not actually to harm them. Of course, the mice don’t know this, and the Mousekewitzes scream at Fievel to hide indoors.
But Fievel is (despite his American accent) clearly the most Russian of all the mice, because he has a straight-up death wish. He charges out into the night to play “cowboys and gangster cat dickheads”. You know. That classic children’s game.
Tiger hears all of this commotion and spends about six years going, “Aww, geez, the mice!” before making a half-hearted vow of ally-hood to “do something”. But this complacent asshole takes one look at John Cleese’s spider sidekick:
who is very clearly the bastard love child of Yosemite Sam and a pair of Liza Minnelli’s fake eyelashes from the ’70s, before promptly fainting and leaving the mice to certain death.
The Mousekewitzes are ripped from their home and flung in the gutter. Fievel almost becomes cat poop, if not for the timely obnoxiousness of Papa Mousekewitz’s violin. There’s a reason the word for “violin” in Russian is the onomatopoeic “skripka”.
The Mousekewitz women flee, leaving their menfolk to be devoured.
Mama Mousekewitz: Run, run, Fievel!
VictorianMasc: Run! Like we are doing! We are abandoning you! We are mice–we can always have more babies!
There’s a big chase scene with them jumping in a tin can and floating away from danger down into the sewer.
Douglas: The real tragedy is that they never turned this into a ride at Universal Studios.
They eventually float toward a weird mouse puppet controlled by John Cleese, and none of the mice seem to notice because everyone in this film is an idiotic shit-lark with the IQ of a russet potato.
Douglas: WHAT NIGHTMARISH UNCANNY VALLEY BULLSHIT IS THIS? Jesus Christ, it’s like the Babadook!
John Cleese puts on a truly horrible American accent, and as soon as I commented on it, VictorianMasc (who’s a Geordie) and Douglas (who’s Northern Irish) jumped all over me to say that Cleese’s American accent is no worse than the various British accents I do.
Because they are assholes.
My accents are fucking flawless.
Creepy Mouse Puppet John Cleese tells all the other terrified mice that they should move out West, where dogs and cats and mice live together in perfect harmony, and where there’s sunshine and money and safety and jobs, and it can all be yours for the low, low price of blah blah blah.
Douglas: Yes, by all means, follow the robot mouse of death.
So he sells a bunch of tickets West, and the mice should definitely get their hopes up really high, because they have a great track record of that working out for them.
(*cough, just gonna leave this here, cough*)
This was the point in the film where I had to sit VictorianMasc and Douglas down and explain to them that John Cleese is actually the hero of the film, as he is the only true purveyor of good ole fashioned American capitalism, and we all need to respect that.
Tiger wakes up from his bullshit nap to find a note at the Mousekewitz house: they’ve all fucked off West and left him alone in New York. And of all the towns out West, they’re going to the one where Miss Kitty is living (and definitely not working as a prostitute, definitely not).
Tiger immediately drops everything and uses all of his disposable cat income to buy a train ticket West, too. I mean, he didn’t want to follow his girlfriend, but he’ll follow his 7-year old inter-species buddy’s family, who kind of seem to hate him.
Tiger rushes to the train station to catch up with the Mousekewitzes.
Fievel: I was hoping maybe Tiger would come say goodbye. Will I ever see him again, Papa?
Douglas: With any luck, no. He is very annoying, and some days we can barely put up with you, Fievel.
Then, because Steven Spielberg didn’t have enough material to fill a 71-minute film, we get a hammy chase scene of Tiger trying to catch the train, and every dog in New York deciding that this is the perfect moment to chase him:
Then the mice have a jaunty little song:
Yay, colonialism! The American expansion west certainly was free of all moral quandaries!
And then, just when we thought we were done with all of the Tiger/dog gags, we get one more. Tiger gets on a stagecoach and attempts to talk to the driver:
VictorianMasc: Why does this dog wear clothes? Were the other dogs nudists?
Because Fievel doesn’t have a danger reflex, he decides to leave his train compartment in the middle of the night and go exploring unsecured chains and rocking machinery directly above the rails.
This is where Douglas developed a rage-ulcer.
Douglas: What is with you, you loser? Any opportunity to fuck up your life and you take it. Stay in the box, you twerp!
Because Fievel is a peril magnet, he immediately stumbles upon the cats’ private chambers, right in the middle of their evil monologue exposing their nefarious plans!
Rather than chasing a few mice to eat in New York, John Cleese wants to lure the mice in droves out to the West, where he will eat them only after exploiting their labor to create a luxurious cat town.
Who knew the epitome of the American dream would sound so British?
Fievel, of course, gets caught by them right away. John Cleese has his little fucked up spider buddy make sure that Fievel trips and falls from the train in full view of his parents, because children’s films are DARK. The parents think it was an accident (or an inevitability, really, given Fievel’s complete lack of self-preservation).
R.I.P. Fievel, we barely knew ye, but we’re probably better off without ye.
In all seriousness, the Mousekewitzes seem to entirely forget about Fievel . . . pretty much immediately, and the music resumes its peppy tone as they reach their destination.
All of a sudden there is a mad dash for resources as all the mice squabble with each other over who gets to live in the best pieces of garbage.
I have never wanted anything to turn into the cornucopia bloodbath in Hunger Games so badly in my life.
The Mousekewitzes then bitch about their circumstances. Because, ya know, that tin can is somehow worse than the box they were living in in New York.
John Cleese then takes over the water supply and uses it to blackmail everyone into doing manual labor. I hope in the deleted scenes we get the subplot where he has four beautiful, pregnant wives who run off into the desert with the help of a truck-driving feminist with great eye makeup.
Meanwhile, Fievel is slowly dying of dehydration in the desert. He starts seeing mirages of his family, which turn out to be cacti.
Tiger, who is walking through the same desert (he fell off the stagecoach, gibbering idiot that he is), also starts seeing mirages of Miss Kitty.
He starts Frenching what he assumes to be his girlfriend, but really turns out to be an owl, and the owl is into it.
Tiger and Fievel pass each other in the desert, mistakenly thinking the other one is a mirage. They are traveling in opposite directions, for reasons that are never explained.
Douglas: *quietly, to himself* Hope you both die, you shitheads.
Tiger then gets captured by some racist caricatures who roast him over a fire and do a war dance, and the whole room went, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”
Tiger: How. Do you do? Hehehe!
The Whole Room: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
And then they discover that Tiger looks exactly like the rock under which they’re roasting him, so clearly Tiger must be a god, and they must worship him.
The Whole Room: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
While things look decidedly better for Tiger, they look decidedly worse for Fievel. After managing to travel in the desert for an entire day without food or water, he gets hunted by an eagle.
The moral of the story is: nature is terrible. By this point, none of us were 100% that Fievel Goes West wasn’t directed by Werner Herzog.
In running away from the eagle, Fievel somehow catches up with Tiger (even though they’ve been walking in opposite directions all day), and the Native American mice take care of all external threats with . . . fireworks.
VictorianMasc: Did they just take down an eagle? That is like us taking down a dragon. I don’t care how racist they are – they are fucking badass.
The eagle dies a fiery, weird death, and Fievel is almost accidentally swallowed when he ends up in Tiger’s wine.
Douglas: This film is an honest-to-god Lovecraftian shit show.
Fievel and Tiger are able to catch up a bit, and then Tiger uses his new god-powers to summon up an Uber in the form of a sentient (?) tumbleweed that drives Fievel right into town.
Also, they had more budget than plot, because we get a minute-long “Rawhide” musical interlude.
GLAD THAT PLOT CUL DE SAC WENT SOMEWHERE, LET’S GET BACK TO THE CAPITALIST CATS.
Fievel’s tumbleweed blows right up to the ornery old sheriff, who turns out to be the legendary Wylie Burp himself!
(I guess they used up the Jimmy Stewart budget on getting the rights to “Rawhide”, because we’re halfway through the film and he’s only had one line so far)
As a side note, when Jimmy Stewart starred in the western Destry Rides Again (1939), he knocked up Marlene Dietrich, whom he then immediately ditched. We took bets as to which actress Jimmy Stewart impregnated behind the scenes of this film.
Anyway, Jimmy Stewart just asks to be left the goddamned hell alone, and really, isn’t that what everyone wants?
We are then treated to an INDUSTRY MONTAGE.
Oh, and yeah, Fievel gets reunited with his family.
VictorianMasc: Oh, you’re back? Great. Mama’s blood pressure was just getting down to normal with you out of the way.
John Cleese is holed up in the saloon, like Al fucking Swearengen, discussing his plot to trick all the mice into sitting on a cleverly disguised mousetrap.
I mean, you don’t even really have to disguise it with all that bunting. These mice are intellectually unfortunate.
There’s also a small subplot about a human woman obsessed with John Cleese. She repeatedly shoves him into her breasts and screams, “PUSSY PUSSY PUSSY” and I dare you to watch this as an adult and not give this everything you got in your side-eye arsenal.
But John Cleese is saved from more molestation and evil villain monologuing when he hears the voice of a diva*
*it’s not a diva, it’s just Tanya
He gets all glassy-eyed and stumbles around town like a drunk, looking for the mouse with the hella good vocal projection (she’s like 5 buildings away).
Tanya, meanwhile, is “cleaning”, by which I mean she sprinkles some sort of powdered version of Marcellus Wallace’s soul into a glass of wine and transforms it into … urine? Look, I don’t know what’s going on in this scene any more than you do.
They do a weird dance and he asks her to come sing for him, which is not at all creepy, considering he’s an adult cat and she’s a 12 year old mouse, and he plans on eating her entire family the next day.
Douglas: Okay, cat, I’m gonna level with you. Follow your dreams and everything, but I really don’t see this relationship going anywhere.
He drops Tanya off with Miss Kitty so Tanya can get outfitted up as–in the words of my dad–“a bona fide prairie slut”.
VictorianMasc: Oh, good. More cat tits.
Miss Kitty’s having some real buyer’s remorse about coming to the West, and especially misses Tiger. Yeah, that’s right. That guy.
Miss Kitty manages to sew a little mouse can-can dress in about 2.3 seconds, puts some makeup on Tanya, and throws her to the wolves (cats?) with no rehearsal time.
Douglas: I am so uncomfortable right now.
Tanya gets crazy stage fright, but pulls it out at the last minute. I gotta hand it to her: moving West has been great for her, creatively. She’s gone from singing one song over and over again to having at least, like, two other songs in her repertoire.
Fievel runs into her after her number to tell her of the evil mousetrap plans set for the next day, but Tanya’s gone from a self-conscious little girl to a real shitbag in the space of one song.
Finally, with only twenty minutes left of the film, Jimmy Stewart gets to say more than two lines. Fievel goes to find Wylie Burp and shames him into action.
I mean, presumably Wylie–as the town sheriff–knows what the cats are up to or at least must suspect something sinister is going on. That doesn’t get him off his ass, but an appeal to his sense of celebrity does.
It takes some cajoling, and a lot of bad writing (Douglas: What is with this whirlwind of dog puns, you giant prick?) but Wylie finally gives Fievel some advice about how to beat the cats.
VictorianMasc: Here’s what you do, kid. You hire a ragtag group of seven desperadoes and…
No, actually what he tells Fievel to do is to find him a young dog. He’ll show this new dog the ropes and will make a hero out of him.
Fievel doesn’t know any other dogs, but he does know one asshole cat. Will that do? He drags Tiger away from his racist peons and brings him in for a training montage.
Tiger and Wylie are . . . generally hostile. The goal? To teach Tiger how to act like a dog.
VictorianMasc: Why does he have to be a dog? He just needs to shoot a gun!
KISS EACH OTHER
Tiger acts himself an asshole, and Wylie swings his dick around (metaphorically, you sickos. This is a family film), and Fievel thinks this shit is hilarious.
Douglas: I don’t know why you’re laughing, Fievel. Tiger’s your only hope to avoid genocide.
Wylie attempts to teach Tiger something called “The Lazy Eye”. Tiger tries it, and this happens.
We changed our minds. Werner Herzog didn’t direct this film. David Lynch did.
Jimmy Stewart then makes Tiger take a dirt bath, because he’s got some weird kinks, and then he teaches Tiger how to bark (which turns into an almost-song, because sure, why not).
He also teaches Tiger how to gut a dude with a pitchfork, and how to spin a lasso, and how to play fetch, and how to race through buckets.
Douglas: Sure, these are all vital skills in ranged weapons combat.
They emerge from the training montage all badass, wearin’ spurs and shit, but I guess I just have to ask . . . what animals are they going to ride that require spurs?
As they sloooooowly walk toward the big party with the mousetrap bleachers (don’t run or anything, guys, it’s not like this is happening IMMINENTLY), all the other non-cat and -mouse animals cringe in fear for the impending bloodbath.
This includes an owl that we have all concluded is the same owl from the desert before.
“I coulda hit that.”
We also had to pause the film and laugh for about 15 minutes at this one mouse sitting in the stands. There very clearly must have been an intern in the animation studio that day, because all the other mice move around, but this mouse stays perfectly still, with a thousand-yard stare:
Douglas: What nightmarish monstrosity is that? It looks like one mouse wearing another mouse’s face!
VictorianMasc: Holy crap, he looks like a cartoon version of every bad taxidermied animal I’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, John Cleese is preparing to cut the red ribbon, which leads to an overly complicated genocidal Rubes-Goldberg device that will set off the mousetrap.
The heroes shoot the scissors out of his hands just in time. Let me tell ya, Tiger has a hell of a range on that slingshot. Now, why precisely they decided to swap out all of the guns for slingshots, when we’ve already shown guns in the film (the very first scene, in fact), I’m sure I don’t know.
There’s a big shoot-out, and Miss Kitty gets some lady wood for “that dog down there with Wylie” before realizing it’s Tiger.
Unfortunately, his masculinity is severely undermined when one of the cats brings out a ludicrous slingshot:
I see what you did there, and I am not terribly impressed by it.
They all get cornered, but then Wylie and Tiger break out the lazy eye, which apparently weirds everyone out enough to abandon their plan of American imperialism.
There’s some more fighting and nonsense, and John Cleese is literally hoisted by his own petard: he ends up on the mousetrap, which Fievel sets off, which catapults John Cleese onto a train with the weird boob lady who screams, “PUSSY PUSSY”, and I cannot think of a better way for this film to end.
Tanya washes off her makeup (she “de-prairie sluts”, if you will), and the water supply is released to the public, and the town becomes an Edenic paradise the red-hot second that water touches the earth, because that’s how nature works.
Tiger and Miss Kitty quite honestly have implied sex in the middle of the street (Wylie looks on in confusion, saying, “I never taught him that one”).
Wylie goes off into the desert to die, or think deep thoughts, or maybe to join some sort of nihilistic Blood Meridian murder crew or something.
Fievel is a hardcore imperialist now, so An American Tail 3 will be subtitled Fievel Invades the Phillipines.
Douglas: Look ye upon the names of the guilty!
Thankfully we had time to watch 3 films when we all got together, so there are two more posts–Little Women (1994) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)–that will be released in the next few months.
As always, we welcome recommendations!