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Tom and Jerry (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, Ken Jeong, Pallavi Sharda, Jordan Bolger, Patsy Ferran, Daniel Adegboyega, Christina Chong, Ajay Chhabra, Somi De Souza, Camilla Arfwedson, Ozuna, Paolo Bonolis and the voices of Bobby Cannavale, Lil Rel Howery, Nicky Jam and Tim Story.

Screenplay by Kevin Costello.

Directed by Tim Story.

Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures. 101 minutes. Rated PG.

I really wanted Tom and Jerry to be good.

This was not because I was particularly a fan of the characters. Sure, I watched some of their shows over the years, but I was never especially a fan. This hope was also not because I thought that the characters had anything particularly relevant to say in the new millennium. Cats chasing mice is not exactly cutting-edge storytelling.

No, I was rooting for Tom and Jerry for one reason and one reason only. It is one of the rare occasions in modern cinema in which an animated film was made with old-school hand-drawn animation, rather than being computer-generated, which has been ubiquitous since Pixar revolutionized the style. CGI is fine, in fact in some ways computer animation can be incredible, but it is much colder and less involving than cartoons which spring from pen and ink from real live artists.

Well, technically Tom and Jerry is a live-action film with traditional animation overlaid upon it, with real settings and human beings but a menagerie of animated animals interacting with the real world. There is still a long, storied history of this style as well, with film such as Mary Poppins, Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? In fact, Jerry Mouse and Tom Cat, the characters spotlighted here, were part of a classic musical dance sequence with Gene Kelly in the 1945 film Anchors Away.

So, on the plus side, let’s start with the animation. It looks good. It’s nice to see classic animation again, and for the most part the drawings and live action are integrated seamlessly. It is a nostalgic rush to see this kind of work, and I hope and pray that this style of filmmaking – though it is more difficult, more time consuming and probably more expensive to make – has a comeback.

So, that is impressive. I just wish there was something… anything… good to say about Tom and Jerry beyond that.

Part of the problem is just a simple logistics problem. Two animals who do not talk (though Tom the cat does sing briefly in one scene and several other animated animals have speaking roles in this film) may work in a five to ten minute short but are pretty hard to hang a full-length feature upon.

In fact, often, Tom and Jerry feel like supporting characters in their own film here, with as much – if not more – time spent on a high society wedding in a swanky New York hotel as is spent on our title characters. (Though, technically, the role of New York is played by London in this film.)

It’s not a particularly funny idea, and Tom and Jerry is able to fumble any little potential that can be squeezed out of the plot. Tom and Jerry feels both oddly anachronistic (not surprising with such long past their sell-by date characters) and at the same time patronizing in its attempts to be modern. (Tom and Jerry on Instagram? Really?)

The real main character here – though her name is not in the title – is Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz). She is a perky and sweet young woman who scams herself into an important job at New York’s most exclusive hotel on the very weekend that the society wedding of the year is taking place. Everyone immediately falls in love with her – even the social media influencer bride-to-be – except for the uptight manager (Michael Peña) who does not trust her as far as he can throw her.

Add cat and mouse. Slapstick mayhem ensues. Yawn.

As bad as that all sounds, Tom and Jerry is even worse. There is only one reason for this film to exist at all – the possibility that it will reintroduce the world to traditional animation. However, when it is at service of a movie that is this bad, that may not be a good thing.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: February 26, 2021.

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