An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island

Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island Movie Poster Image
Immigrant mice tale is scarier, darker than past films.
  • G
  • 2004
  • 80 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Teaches about the immigrant experience in the United States and a little about the history of Native Americans.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of equality, tolerance, and equal working conditions for all people (and mice!). But also some dated stereotypes about Native Americans and immigrants.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Papa stands up for Tony and fights for the rights of all immigrants in America.

Violence & Scariness

Suspenseful scenes of peril such as Fievel almost getting hit by a train or flooding lava; scary skeletons that lead to a treasure map; and a scheming villain and his police thugs who beat up protesters with a baton and threaten more violence.

Sexy Stuff

Some very mild flirting and one kiss on the cheek.

Language

Some racist terms such as "injuns" used by the bad guys.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Villains drinking and scheming in a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island is another adventure of Fievel the mouse and his immigrant family. This action-adventure has a strong message about tolerance and equality for all but also has quite a few suspenseful scenes and a lot of cartoon violence, including some disturbing scenes of police beating up protesters, which may be too scary for some young viewers. There also are some pretty dated ethnic stereotypes of various immigrants and Native Americans. 

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What's the story?

The Mouskewitzes and friends are finding that the American dream isn't all they thought it would be. Papa (Nehemiah Persoff) is tired from working multiple jobs and is sick of being discriminated against at his factory job. And Tony (Pat Musick) finds his dreams of getting rich are slow in coming, especially when he gets on the bad side of the evil factory boss, Mr. Grasping (Ron Perlman). When Fievel (Thomas Dekkar) and Tony discover a secret treasure map that leads them underneath Manhattan, they're sure their luck is about to change. But when the adventurers find a secret society of Native American mice hiding under the city, they learn the greatest treasure you can find is the freedom to hope and dream.

Is it any good?

Fans of Indiana Jones will definitely recognize and appreciate the scenes of Fievel and Tony navigating the underground world of Manhattan in this sometimes fun adventure tale. But, unlike previous American Tail adventures, this dreary flick is short on hope and long on injustice. There are too many near misses for Tony and Fievel, and Mr. Grasping and his police thugs are just too brutal -- seeing them viciously beat a protester with a baton, even if it is in silhouette, feels excessive. Fievel's cheery enthusiasm isn't enough to outweigh the gloom that pervades the entire movie.

Also, though there are definitely some inspiring scenes of Papa rallying everyone to fight against injustice, it's hard to overlook the dated and cringe-inducing stereotypes used to depict the Native American mice. Stick with the original An American Tail and skip this one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the American dream. What is the American dream and why is reality much different for Fievel, his family, and their friends?

  • Do you think the Native American mice made a good choice to hide underground? Why, or why not?

  • Which American Tail adventure is your favorite? Why?

Movie details

For kids who love animal tales

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