Synopsis – Adaptation of the classic Hanna-Barbera property, which reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry.
My Take – Like who doesn’t love Tom and Jerry?
Despite being 81 years old these beloved animated relics from Hollywood’s Golden Age, created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, still manage to bring smile to people of all ages. As the 114 shorts produced between 1940 and 1958 continue to be entertaining with their influence being second to none with the shorts winning seven Academy Awards.
What the cat-and-mouse pair are not, however, built for feature length. With the underwhelming reception of the theatrically released 1992 film, Tom and Jerry: The Film, which had them speak and sing in the voices of Richard Kind and Dana Hill, making a strong case for that point.
While Warner Bros. have continued to churn out direct-to-video vehicles for the duo, an under-the-radar safe franchise that handled the rivalry’s incompatibility with long-form narrative by dropping them often with other IP, like Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and even Willy Wonka, and making them function as supporting players in someone else’s story.
Unfortunately, therein lies the problem also with this new live-action/computer-animated hybrid from director Tim Story (Ride Along, Think Like A Man), which despite nailing the classic rivalry between its titular cat and mouse along with all their traditional shenanigans, finds the duo overlaid on top of a story that they don’t belong in. There are moments where the film captures the familiar hilarious spirit of cartoon violence, but the moments of goodwill are completely undermined by a rudderless second half that focuses more on tedious human characters than comedic cartoon mayhem.
While I personally found the attempt to reintroduce the duo on a grander, more theatrical scale admirable, there is no denying that the lack of sure-handedness to the material ends up effecting the whole feature. In the end, it really depends on why audiences may want to go see the film, because, as I mentioned, the treatment of these timeless characters will make any classicist happy. The film isn’t overly deep or groundbreaking, which it seemingly isn’t trying to do, but it works on the level of a nostalgia-filled respite for those looking for an innocent family film.
Set in New York, the story follows Kayla Forrester (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is struggling to obtain gainful employment, but when a chance to use someone else’s impressive resume presents an opportunity to get a job at the prestigious Royal Gate Hotel, she takes it willingly, much to the annoyance of the ego maniacal events manager Terrance (Michael Peña). However, she is quickly ushered into the first task ahead of the wedding of celebrity couple Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) taking place over the weekend, i.e. catch/kill a witty mouse named Jerry who has recently made the premises his new home, and is primarily disturbing the kitchen governed by Chef Jackie (Ken Jeong).
In order to do so, she recruits Tom, a short-hair cat, to aid in her mission. But what Kayla didn’t foresee was the amount of havoc the two end up creating, instantly threatening to upset the wedding and expose Kayla as a fraud in front of Henry DuBros (Rob Delaney), the wealthy general manager and owner of the Royal Gate Hotel.
Fans of the classic feline and mouse duo should be pleased that not much has changed: Tom and Jerry are still enemies vying to outsmart the other with gizmos and inventive contraptions. There’s plenty of silly cartoon violence and references to ACME and prominent Hanna-Barbera creations. The film thrives when the comedic cartoon hijinks take center stage, as the slapstick humor of Tom getting thrashed with an obnoxious sized dumbbell or Jerry falling into a gooey cheesy trap, continues to be funny.
While, the setup for the film of having an unprepared Hotel try in vain to contain the mischief and chaos created by Tom and Jerry’s war is certainly a better fit for the duo than the previous theatrical film, and the hotel staff is made up of potentially great comic foils for them to work off. Yet it’s still bizarre that this is the premise the characters’ big-time comeback is staked to. Just imagine how antsy the kids watching this are going to get as Mr. Dubros expounds on what makes a marriage work and Preeta fret over a lost engagement ring.
The script, from writer Kevin Costello, works overtime to provide the human characters some sense of purpose, and that largely comes through in clunky declarations like Kayla describing how it feels to open her phone every day and see her peers thriving while she scrapes by in the gig economy.
To the film’s credit, it’s refreshing to see Tom and Jerry as fixtures of their original drawings: rendered in crisp 2D animation as opposed to the standard CGI used today. While the integration of live-action and animation isn’t at the same level as something like Roger Rabbit, the animators create a visually interesting world where humans live alongside animated animals and create a tangible living world that welcomes the antics of Tom and Jerry.
The slapstick is also appropriately chaotic, destructive, and over the top with genuine creativity given to the excruciating punishment Tom and Jerry are put through. While certain scenes of humans interacting with animals have a certain obvious green screen feel to them, the overall integration of live action and animation is mostly well done and creates a visually interesting and unique world that resulted in a decent number of chuckles and moments that made me smile for their creativity like Jerry’s homemade from stolen items.
Performance wise, Chloë Grace Moretz does well with the material in hand, but is not utilized enough considering her already proven talents. While in supporting roles, Michael Peña, Rob Delnaney, Jordan Bolger, Ken Jeong, Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda give committed turns considering how their is not much to salvage from an insubstantial script whose human component lacks balance amid wacky animated mischief. On the whole, ‘Tom and Jerry’ does a decent job of adapting the lovable formula to feature length despite being burdened with a creaky plot.
Directed – Tim Story
Rated – PG
Run Time – 101 minutes