Tom and Jerry (2021)

"Excuse me, but this, this is just a piece of paper. If I’m going to be worthy of this institution, you need to see me in action.""Excuse me, but this, this is just a piece of paper. If I’m going to be worthy of this institution, you need to see me in action."

“Excuse me, but this, this is just a piece of paper. If I’m going to be worthy of this institution, you need to see me in action.”

In recent memory an influx of older intellectual property has been reintroduced and refreshed for the current generation to discover. Tom and Jerry is but one of the more popularized IP to get a big screen adaptation but the question begs to be asked, did anyone even want this to happen or is it just a ploy used as a cash grab by the top executives? The scale tends to lean in favor of the latter in this type of situation producing an unsatisfactory result for the audience. Tom and Jerry is a staple of the weekend cartoon shorts dating back from the 1940’s created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. It’s a legendary rivalry in the likes of Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd among others.  

Taking a normally 6-10 minute short and turning it into a full-length feature is a big risk that harps on the younger crowds to secure its success. Maybe that’s who will appreciate this film because it certainly won’t be the older demographic.  The story of Tom and Jerry basically is a predator vs prey chase with an over abundance of bodily harm to be dished out to the predator, Tom by prey Jerry. Being animated, the violence is allowed to be as outrageous as possible without the outcry against animal abuse. Throw in the comedy aspect – Jerry laughs, Tom gets severely injured and Jerry nods and winks at the camera as if saying can you believe this guy and there’s an episode. 

Tom and Jerry takes the same animated/live action route that has been done so many times before. This type of hybrid formula is rarely successful because of the fact that so much has to be carefully handled to capture the same spirit of the original property. On top of giving the impression that this is the vintage cartoon, new characters, backstories and a more complex yet simple plot is juggled to fit within the realm of this universe. 

“Wow, you’re really good with animals. Toots is usually really shy. And by “shy”, I mean, she scratches people’s faces off.”

In New York City, Tom is getting on with his life, minding his own business, not a care in the world – he plays his keyboard in the park for strangers as an aspiring pianist when Jerry antagonizes him breaking said keyboard. In this moment Jerry is a complete a-hole for no apparent reason. Not a good look on your part being the obnoxious one Jerry. Tom acts like Tom, chases Jerry around and both crash into an unsuspecting bystander. Jerry escapes to the Royal Gate Hotel where he settles into his new “home”. Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz), the innocent bystander Tom crashes into is now jobless taking advantage of being in the “right place at the right time” for an interview at the Royal Gate Hotel where she has no related skills.

Kayla’s job is to exterminate Jerry from the hotel in time for the wedding of the century of Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) and Ben (Colin Jost). In this scenario, maybe Kayla should have called in an actual professional since all she actually did was place a band-aid on the situation. She is a decent con-artist fooling her boss Terrence (Michael Peña) into thinking she could handle the removal at hand.

Tom and Jerry is ambitious in nature but ultimately doesn’t have a satisfying journey or payoff. These are characters a lot of us grew up with and not being able to connect with them in this new story is problematic. Kevin Costello’s script is messy and all over the place trying to focus on one too many storylines. Questionable dialogue is found from top to bottom with Colin Jost in particular literally being his weekend update character. He might as well have been reading his lines off a teleprompter. It gives the impression that these characters are uninspired and lack any nuance. There’s the main conflict between Tom and Jerry, the conflict between Kayla and Terrance (the human antagonist), the conflict between Ben and Preeta and so much more. 

“Word gets out that we’re thinking of hiring a cat, well, the mouse problem could leak. And if word gets out that we’re refusing to hire a cat? Well, PETA will be here before you can say “discriminatory practices”.”

Trying to fit so much into such a short runtime only sets things up for failure while not allowing plot points to become fully developed. Nothing about Tom and Jerry is fully thought out or executed. Characters are left feeling shallow from a poor script – there is no emotional connection established with Kayla, Terrance, Preeta or Ben. Everyone is just selfish unsuccessfully attempting to come off as selfless. Only Mr. Dubros (Rob Delaney) has an impression of normalcy among the human characters, He’s the only one who can deliver his dialogue in a comedic manner. Everyone else has zero chemistry with one another.

At times it’s difficult to distinguish what the main storyline is – is it the wedding or the typical Tom and Jerry cat and mouse chase. This is where the animated/live action hybrid fails the most. Along with Tom and Jerry there is a pack of alley cats led by Butch (Nicky Jam), Spike the bulldog (Bobby Cannavale), a tiger, two elephants, and pigeons that rap A Tribe Called Quest (why are they rapping Can I Kick It? It adds no substance to the story). All the animals being animated doesn’t excuse the amount of carnage they cause that no one bats an eye to. Tom and Jerry nearly demolish the main hotel lobby and there is zero consequence, every human just stands there frozen to the ground while all the animals destroy the wedding ceremony later on. Granted the animals are not real but it feels unrealistic given the scope of things.  

Tom and Jerry is a giant mess that is the result of a poor script and misguided inspiration to the original cartoon. Human characters have no emotional depth or development and the animated characters that we know already don’t add any value or substance to their legendary rivalry. Tom and Jerry comes off as if there were too many cooks in the kitchen that tried too hard to be funny and self-aware. Maybe Tom and Jerry should have stayed a cartoon short. If I were to rate Tom and Jerry, I’d give it a 1.5 out of 5. 

So, tell me, have you seen Tom and Jerry and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Tom and Jerry Is directed by Tim Story is Rated PG and has a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. Tom and Jerry was released on February 26, 2021 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes. Tom and Jerry can be seen in theaters and streamed on HBO Max as part of their day and date release campaign. 

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