Tom & Jerry and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Tim Story
The pandemic has been awful for everyone, but I have no doubt that a few movies were relieved to avoid having to release in theaters and have dismal box office returns; particularly the movies that were already being pushed further and further back looking for the least competitive window possible to MAYBE scrape by at number three on slow weekend. My Spy certainly springs to mind, as does this movie which didn’t exactly light the world on fire with its trailer and frankly I was not looking forward to sitting through it when Warner Bros put it on their HBO Max slate. Still, even if it looks a bit cheap and cheesy for the big screen, perhaps it plays a bit better on the smaller one and will find its niche in the streaming market. Is this a fun little romp for the kids that captures the spirit of these classic characters, or is it yet another lousy cash-in that’ll come and go faster than the LAST time they tried to bring these characters to the big screen all the way back in 1992? Let’s find out!!
Thomas D Cat and Jerome A Mouse are two critters roaming the streets of New York City; one looking for a place to stay that has lots of cheese and the other hoping to be the world’s most famous keyboard playing feline right after Keyboard Cat. Their paths cross when Jerry interrupts his concert in the park and after a series of convoluted antics; one ends up in a fancy hotel chomping holes into walls and stealing food while the other is left homeless and with a broken keyboard. Try to guess which one is which! Said hotel by the way has a new employee named Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) who faked her way into the position and is trying to prove herself by fixing the hotel’s mouse problem in preparation for an upcoming celebrity wedding that will take place in the hotel’s banquet hall. The current supervisor (Michael Peña) is skeptical of Kayla and is looking for any excuse to get rid of her, so she has to bring in a mouse catching ringer and decides to hire this cartoon cat that clearly has it out for the little mouse. Will Tom be able to stop Jerry’s antics and earn a decent salary to fund his hopes and dreams? Will the wedding go off without a hitch, or is there more going on with the celebrity couple that can only come to light via cartoon animal violence? I know the movie is out and I’ve sat through it already… but are we sure this is even a real movie?
I’ve been down this road before, and honestly? Not the best look for me. Sure, there are kid movies that I found completely unbearable and were worth criticizing, but considering how long and how thoroughly I end up railing against movies like Scoob, it might be worth taking a deep breath and tempering my rhetoric. This movie is annoying, it feels completely hollow, and the writing just comes off as smug and dripping with sarcasm like everyone involved was too good to be a part of this; so yeah, yet another dreadfully boring and rather sloppy attempt from studios to cash in a nostalgic license. Just the next in a long line of movies that try to sucker adults into having their kids relive their childhood without feeling as blatant as just sitting them down to watch questionable cartoons from the fifties. Then again, the people who would be clamoring for a return of these two characters are probably grandparents by this point, and there’s just not enough here to make it feel the least bit relevant to a modern audience. In fact, the ONE thing that I can say about this movie that can be construed as positive is that they are one-hundred and ten percent committed to the bit and simply recreating Tom & Jerry routines in a modern setting. If you have fondness for the old school antics than you might find a few moments in here that are worth watching but there’s just not enough of it there to fill a feature length runtime and you’d like be bored by everything else.
The thing is, I never liked Tom & Jerry to begin with as I was much more of a Bugs Bunny guy if we’re talking about classic cartoons, and frankly I don’t know who was clamoring for their return to the big screen. Perhaps the success of sticking these two in movies like The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was enough for Warner Bros to think the characters were in any way relevant, and maybe all the great work they were doing with the Looney Tunes revival made them think they could pull it off, but to everyone’s dismay (especially those who end up sitting through this movie), the effort and enthusiasm is ultimately for naught. If I were to sum this movie up in two words, they’d be Sloppy and Quick. Everything about this movie feels like it was done in one take and the narrative (if you can even call it that) is utterly threadbare with almost no connection to Thomas Cat or Jerome Mouse and frankly no connection with reality or logic. It’s an endless barrage of scenes that just stack upon each other one after the other like the words are coming through on Lucy’s chocolate conveyor belt (another thing that mostly grandparents still care about) and it’s like watching someone trying to come up with an alibi on the spot with about the same results.
The human characters and their story really are the nail in this film’s coffin as they take up so much time of the movie and it’s never amusing to watch. The couple around whom the various crises of the movie revolve around aren’t what I’d call interesting (the dude sounds like Nathan Nathan Fielder and has a very punchable haircut) and the entire supporting cast are empty suits with no personality and bad jokes. The one who gets it the worst though is Chloë Grace Moretz who is criminally underserved by the plot which gives her no internal life or even that much of a character to work with. We have no clue as to what she’s going for aside from gainful employment, and even THAT is a relatively minor goal considering she doesn’t seem too enamored with this job in the first place and on top of that we don’t know if she even NEEDS money as we never know the first thing about her, what her living situation is, or any struggles that she’s facing outside of just wanting to feel useful. Frankly, her job is just to awkwardly narrate the action and to occasionally translate what Tom and Jerry are trying to say so we can keep up with the plot, but even that is a fool’s errand as their motivations seem to change from scene to scene. The only one who stands out among the humans is Michael Peña; not because he’s GOOD but because he is doing some VERY strange things in this movie and you just can’t take your eyes off of him. I wouldn’t exactly say he’s going above and beyond for this movie because that would involve doing something GOOD, but he seems completely committed to whatever this performance is supposed to be and it’s never not awkward and cringy to watch.
As I said, the one thing that’s KIND of tolerable in this movie are the cartoon antics, and while the animation is pretty bad overall (it looks incredibly flat despite being 3D renders) I will give them credit for not going the Garfield/Smurfs route of trying to integrate them more naturally into the environment which always smashes us face first into the uncanny valley. It’s more of a Roger Rabbit type arrangement, albeit one with no adequate explanation. At least in Roger Rabbit they let you know that the cartoons were their own separate thing, but in this universe they’re treated like other animals except when they’re not. I’m not sure a hotel has ever hired a cat and given him a nametag outside of some sort of publicity stunt, but most of the time Tom is still talked about like he’s just a regular old cat despite being fully anthropomorphized. Speaking of Tom, I actually liked him in this movie and I honestly wanted him to eat Jerry bones and all because JERRY IS A TOTAL JERK! He feels entitled to sponge off the success and effort of everyone else around him, and when he doesn’t get his way he just lashes out at people and makes their lives miserable! Tom may have his own baggage, but he’s WORKING for a living; busking on the streets with his piano trying to make something of himself and live out his dreams, at least until that A-HOLE JERRY comes by and ruins everything for him! A strong narrative more focused on Tom might have salvaged quite a bit of this movie, but sadly he just feels like another piece in a complex and woefully incomplete puzzle and his bright spots are only brief glimmers of hope in a sea of bad humor and ennui.
It’s getting easier and easier these days to find whatever entertainment you want from any era, so revivals like this really need to hit it out of the park to sell to a modern audience who can just turn to the original source with the push of a button. Heck, the cartoons are on HBO Max and are presumably going to still be there after this new movie is removed from that service; making it that much more pointless for all involved. I guess the fact that I have zero attachment to the characters is what’s saving it from an EPIC RANT like Scoob got, but there’s also not enough ambition here for me to really get my hackles up. I knew what it looked like going into it and while it was more boring and padded than I imagined, it wasn’t really any worse than I expected. MAYBE it’s worth checking out for the few scenes of them going at it like they do in the cartoons, but I would not recommend sitting through this movie in one go. It’s just too boring and tediously smarmy for the brief moments of old school animation exuberance to overcome and you’re better off watching just about any other incarnation of these characters. Heck, that Willy Wonka one is probably WAY better than this!