Well… another day, another reboot of a beloved childhood property. And yet somehow, I never saw this coming. Didn’t they already try making a Tom & Jerry movie back in 1992? And wasn’t it a widely-panned disaster that failed to make its money back, relegating Tom and Jerry’s “cinematic” presence to direct-to-TV specials on Cartoon Network? Yes, to all of the above. And yet, apparently, someone thought they could do it better this time. Luckily, this one doesn’t make the mistake of having Tom and Jerry talk, but it does make the mistake of writing in human characters that we’re supposed to care about.
In this family comedy, Tom and Jerry find themselves stranded in New York with nowhere to sleep - apparently, the cost of living there is so high now that even street animals have to pay rent - and Jerry finds the perfect solution: sneaking into a ritzy hotel to live a life of luxury and resume his usual trouble-causing ways. Meanwhile, a young lady named Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) has lied her way into getting a job at the Royal Gate Hotel right as it's preparing to host a wedding for one of New York society’s hottest couples. The last thing she needs is a mouse sneaking around, so she enlists Tom to hunt down Jerry through various slapstick routines. Throw in an uptight manager that’s onto Kayla’s scheme, some oddball hotel workers, the bumbling high society guests, and you’ve got… well, kind of a mess, to be honest.
Too many cooks
Image from CNN
Tom and Jerry have three different screenwriters. You may have heard the expression, “If it takes three or more people to make a decision, the worst one will always be chosen,” but if there were ever a movie that exemplified it, it’s this one. Of course, a modern version of Tom and Jerry could have been much worse, but it strangely feels like two movies are going on simultaneously, and they don’t mesh together with any finesse. When we’re focused on the Tom and Jerry hijinks variety hour, it’s actually pretty entertaining, but when we’re stuck in the movie about quirky hotel staff… not so much.
Part of the problem is that the humans don’t participate in the slapstick humor, which, credit where credit is due, is pretty good. The slapstick sequences are well-timed, expertly paced, and when the pan to the face or the window shut on fingers needs to look properly painful, it does. There was a surprising amount of genuine laughs to be had, and almost all of it came from Tom and Jerry's actions or expressions.
Another mention must be made of the animation - I had my doubts about it at first, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Tom and Jerry’s new computer-animated models don’t look too terribly out of place in the live-action setting. In fact, their interactions with objects and the real-world environment are extremely convincing. I was getting more realness from them than the human actors in a lot of cases. However, it’s not just Tom and Jerry that are animated. All the animals in this world are animated, even the dead fish at the market, which raises some questions about what strange universe the movie takes place in. One could be forgiven for letting their mind wander to such a topic whenever the focus is on the human characters.
What jokes the humans get are pretty lackluster, including several modern references and in-jokes that fall extremely flat. Their characters are nowhere near charming enough to compete with Tom and Jerry’s chemistry as they enact their age-old enemies routine, and it didn’t feel like anyone was trying to make them charming, either. Additionally, whatever tension is supposed to come from the idea of the big fancy wedding going down in flames was utterly forgettable.
It’s not as if these actors can’t be funny, especially with Michael Peña as the progressively more harried manager. Moretz is known more for dramatic roles, and it’s not like she isn’t trying to make it work as the spunky underdog Kayla, but she’s just not given much to work with. One has to wonder what the point was of including these guys at all.
Heard it all before
Image from What's After The Credits?
For those familiar with the Tom and Jerry cartoons, it might be enjoyable to play a round of “Hey, they did the thing!” while watching this movie. In fact, several of the slapstick gags were taken directly from the old cartoons. Whether this was intended as an homage or the filmmakers just ran out of original ideas is unclear.
Generally, Tom and Jerry give the sense that it’s ticking off boxes. Yes, they worked in an underdog protagonist and a tacked-on moral about not comparing yourself to others - which is a bold stance coming from a movie that is impossible NOT to compare to the work it's based on - but as far as actual heart or truly meaningful lessons, there’s little to be found.
It’s not quite as bad as, say, The Smurfs or the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. That seems like the kind of movie they were going for, and sadly there is more than one out-of-place hip hop number in here, but at least they’re short.
In the end, Tom and Jerry are not about to become as big an internet sensation as Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory did, as it’s not nearly bizarre enough to warrant that amount of confusion and mockery. It’s just kind of… lame. It manages genuine laughs and charm, but the extra story you have to sit to get through them is hardly worth it. Unless you’re such a die-hard Tom and Jerry fan that you’ll watch this for the sake of completionism, you’re far better off sticking to the cartoons, or waiting for the compilations to come on YouTube.
Featured Image: Cartoon Network
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