REVIEW: ‘Tom and Jerry’ is a total loss

“Tom and Jerry” were never my favorite series of classic animated shorts. With this movie, though, I had hope that maybe a modern take on the characters could result in a fun family flick mixing live action with animation.

I was so, so wrong.

As the title suggests, this follows the well known cat and mouse duo of Tom and Jerry. The film starts off with the two now living in New York City. In the Big Apple, Jerry is considering where he’d like to live, while Tom has a dream of being a piano player and has been working on his craft in Central Park. The two eventually run into each other, though, and a bit of chaos ensues.

Eventually, through a series of events, Jerry finds himself at a fancy hotel and decides to settle down. At the same time a young woman who’s looking for work and is known for hustling, ends up getting hired at the hotel just as it’s ready to hold a celebrity wedding. The woman, Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz), starts the job and is soon tasked with getting rid of Jerry, as the hotel’s reputation can’t handle a mouse being there. To help the situation, she enlists Tom to help.

This movie feels like such a soulless cash grab. It’s easy to write that since there’s such little heart here, and it feels as if the filmmaker could swap out Tom and Jerry with any silent cartoon characters, and it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Tom and Jerry, like a lot of prey Vs. predator animated situations, work best as shorts. The predator comes up with an elaborate plan, the prey foils it, and the two both live on to do it again. As a short, these work well for small bouts of comedy, the same way it has worked for Tweety and Sylvester, as well as the Road Runner and the Coyote.

As a full on movie, though, a bigger narrative has to be built around such a duo, and the character’s themselves have to be given a little more nuance than their original antics. It’s not impossible to do so with animated characters in family movies either, Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks have all done it.

Hell, even “Space Jam” was able to do it. It’s not a great movie or even a particularly good one, but it at least uses the sports/underdog movie model to make you root for the characters and gives the animated animals a bit more personality.

TomJerryBLog
Courtesy Warner Bros. Animation

This is where the “Tom and Jerry” movie falls completely flat on its face. The story around the two leads is just a low stakes affair of “we have to get the big event right or it will ruin the company reputation.” It’s such a bland concept and isn’t connected all that much to the three lead characters, since this isn’t their business that they really care about.

The movie definitely drops the ball with the main characters, too. It really felt like a wrong decision to make Kayla a con artist who hustles her way into the hotel position, only for the movie to want the audience to be endeared to her soon after. One wonders why they didn’t just make the character an honest actor who was trying to do the best in her position.

Worse then her, though, is Jerry. A lot of the time, an audience is supposed to side more with the prey, like with Tweety Bird, the Road Runner, or Bugs Bunny when he’s dealing with Elmer Fudd.

Yet Jerry is shown to be completely unlikable, as he sabotages Tom for no good reason early on in the film and continues to do things just to screw with people as the film goes on, like steal the wedding ring before the big wedding from the bride.

When it comes down to it, Tom is actually somewhat likable, or at least understandable in this movie, but as things just devolve into the chase and destruction antics, it becomes hard to care about him too.

It all feels so heartless and uninspired, with the hotel story just introduced so the cat and mouse could do some destruction in a fancy setting. Again, it’s probably OK for a short, but not a full length feature.

Another thing making the film feel heartless is its music choices. The movie starts with rapping pigeons and hip hop tracks are needle dropped throughout the runtime.

Why? Do Tom and Jerry actually interact with hip hop artists or have ideals of beat boxing? Nope, studios just know that the youth like hip hop, so they better put it in. Oh yeah, and those rapping pigeons don’t have anything to do with the movie overall.

All of this is a shame, too, because Moretz seems to be trying to have fun with this one and she’s a good actress. Plus, despite not being the best animation incorporated into live action, the animated characters look alright. These aspects are no where near enough to save it though. 1 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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