Review: “Tom & Jerry” (2021)

Live-action/animation hybrid movies are nothing new although one could argue the subgenre reached its peak with the brilliant “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. The idea that characters from famous IPs could be walking among us interacting with people in the real world is a fun concept which became a trend in the 90s and beyond with studios adapting animated icons to the big screen in either real life or the hybrid model. These movies rarely worked out for the better and the format has become more of a gimmick than an attempt to truly capture the spirit of the source material. The new “Tom & Jerry” movie revisits the live-action/animation melding by bringing the titular duo from Hanna-Barbara into the real world as their hijinks create problems for Chloë Grace Moretz playing a hotel employee trying to prepare for a big wedding. “Tom & Jerry” might capture some of the charm of its characters’ original cartoons and sports some commendable computer animation, but by making the same mistakes as countless past films it serves little purpose than to fulfill the simplest of expectations and barely entertain those determined to relive their joy for the legendary cartoon shorts.

Screenshot Courtesy of Warner Bros.

I’m just going to be blunt, “Tom & Jerry” is a bad movie. I mean, this was a hard one for me to get through and I’m thankful I only watched it on my buddy’s HBOMax so I didn’t waste the money to see it on the big screen. Still, I feel it’s worth pointing out what I actually liked about this movie first because it wasn’t a total loss. First, the animation was pretty cool. Tom and Jerry, along with literally every other animal in this movie, are computer animated and the animation is pretty smooth sticking to the traditional designs and art style of the original shorts while giving it a more modern aesthetic. I wouldn’t have minded seeing an entire movie made with this kind of animation honestly. The decision to make every animal animated instead of just Tom and Jerry was a nice touch as it gives some logic to the cat and mouse being in the real world. I wish the rest of the movie was that inspired honestly. The slapstick comedy also has its moments even if it often takes a back seat to the larger, less interesting story. Seeing Tom and Jerry go back and forth offers plenty for fans of the duo to enjoy and one particular scene where Spike, the bulldog from the cartoons, hits Tom over the head with a bat just for seeing him and then proceeds to hit him a second time because he was still there gave me a nice chuckle. Little moments like that offer a fun embrace of the comedy that made the shorts so charming. So, if all your looking for is Tom and Jerry doing their thing there is at least something worth seeing in this movie.

Screenshot Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Sadly, there’s not ENOUGH of just Tom and Jerry. Their hijinks are superimposed over a story about Chloë Grace Moretz as Kayla, a young woman who tricks her way into being employed by a hotel and tries to keep her job by helping the hotel pull off the perfect wedding between an Indian bride (Pallavi Sharda) and her American husband (Colin Jost) who is trying to hard to impress his soon-to-be father-in-law with a traditional Indian wedding. This movie performs one of the biggest and most often committed sins in adapting a children’s property to the big screen: it focuses too much on the humans and not enough on the characters we came to see. The “Transformers” franchise was infamous for this. The “Smurfs” live action movies were infamous for this. Even another Hanna-Barbara adaptation, “Yogi Bear”, was guilty of the crime. I don’t know why filmmakers continue to think this formula makes for a good movie. It’s such an annoying crutch meant to stretch the adventures of the titular characters to feature length because the writers clearly couldn’t think of a way to do it properly…even though there already was a sub-par fully animated “Tom & Jerry” movie in the 90s.

Screenshot Courtesy of Warner Bros.

It would be something if the movie didn’t feel like a “Kangaroo Jack” scenario where filmmakers took a gangster film script and melded it with a child-friendly concept about a talking kangaroo thus taking two bad movies and making one HORRIBLE movie from the pieces. “Tom & Jerry” isn’t quite that bad but it feels like a similar scenario as if they had this crappy story about a hotel employee trying to get a wedding together and decided to slap Tom and Jerry into the mix to make it worth filming. If there was something of substance worth enjoying then maybe this blend would work, but instead what we get is unconvincing acting, jokes about taco farts, a jumbled and uninteresting narrative, and this shoehorned message about love and brotherhood that feels as watered down as can be. It all feels immediately dated, lazy and just plain boring. Yes, when the mouse and cat are actually trying to one-up each other it can be a lot of fun but that makes up MAYBE a third of the film….MAYBE. The rest of it just feels like a waste of time and not in a good way.

Screenshot Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Tom & Jerry” has thus far received decent reviews from fans of the show, but I agree with the actual critics who feel like it just isn’t worth it. The titular duo just don’t seem to be good fits for the big screen. Their previous animated film in the 90s (which made the mistake of giving them voices) was a mess too so maybe the duo is just better left in their classic shorts. Supposedly this movie had a troubled production dating back to 2009 and went through several different concepts and formats and it shows as the movie feels uninspired and unwilling to go beyond the most basic clichés that these adaptations have sadly been willing to embrace since the 90s. Kids might enjoy it, fans of the duo will probably get at least something out of it, but for me this wasn’t Tom and Jerry as much as it was a hotel comedy featuring Tom and Jerry. After decades of watching movies try to trick me into enjoying the bland story just because they slapped some iconic characters I liked into the mix I think maybe I’m just worn out. Who could blame me for wanting more?

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