Tom & Jerry is a live-action-animated hybrid comedy based on the classic cartoon frenemies Tom and Jerry. The film is directed by Tim Story with a screenplay by Kevin Costello. It is the second theatrical adaptation of the cartoon characters after 1992’s Tom and Jerry: The Movie. It stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, and Ken Jeong. The film also has Nicky Jam, Bobby Cannavale, and Lil Rel Howery lending their voices to animated characters.
Tom & Jerry was released simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max in the United States on February 26, 2021. The film was originally intended to be released in 2009. It went through production halts and troubles until finally getting green-lit in 2019. The critical reception to the film has been mostly negative for a whole slew of things it did wrong. The film is being criticized for over-relying on live-action characters instead of Tom and Jerry. While the audience response has been mild, the film has largely garnered bad reviews.
Tom and Jerry are some of the most widely known and loved cartoon characters in the world. These two iconic cartoon characters have been entertaining children for what feels like an eternity now. The age of this voiceless pair of loveable feline and a rodent precedes even some of our grandparents. Needless to say, the nostalgia for these two friendly nemeses perpetually involved in chases and battles is paramount. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only reason one would want to endure watching this utterly mediocre film. The film feels like a soul-less cash grab by corporate Hollywood, capitalizing on easy nostalgia with bare minimum efforts. Even if one were to take it as a film targeted only for children, it would still seem to be an exercise in peak mediocrity.
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The title of the film is not a suggestion for what it will focus on – Tom and Jerry. Instead, the film decides to concern itself with human characters and treating the mouse and cat duo as side characters. The film begins with Tom playing piano in New York’s central park when Jerry picks a fight with him. The fight ends in Tom’s piano getting destroyed while Jerry flees away. From there on, the film follows Kayla Forester, a young woman who does odd jobs. During one of Tom and Jerry’s chases, Kayla bumps into Tom and gets her delivery clothes all messed up. Kayla gets fired from her job and now seeks a new one at the Royal Gate Hotel. Using a stolen resume, she cons her way into a job of helping Terrance Mendoza, an event manager.
Meanwhile, Jerry finds himself an abode inside the hotel, where he continues his shenanigans. The film then introduces a celebrity couple of Preeta Mehta and her fiancé Ben. The two arrive at the hotel to get married. As Kayla tries to charm the couple, Jerry’s shenanigans jeopardize the wedding. Kayla decides to catch Jerry and save the wedding and her job. On the other hand, a sad Tom discovers Jerry inside the hotel and decides to avenge himself. After a chaotic upheaval caused by their fight, Kayla finds the duo and befriends Tom. Seeing how Tom shares the same goals as hers, she helps him get a job at the hotel.
As Tom successfully throws Jerry out of the hotel, Kayla discovers that the wedding ring is missing. It is revealed that Jerry possesses the ring, which he offers to hand over, but only if he’s allowed back into the hotel. After a scuffle with Terrance, Kayla’s job is compromised due to Tom and Jerry’s fights. Kayla convinces the two to clear up their differences, which they do, but not for long. Terrance incites a feud between the two by feeding them lies about each other when the wedding starts. The fight ensues, and the wedding gets ruined, resulting in Kayla quitting and Tom getting fired.
Realizing that it was their fault, Tom and Jerry bury the hatchet and decide to save the wedding. They get Kayla and Terrence on board, who also reconciles his differences with the three. The team then fixes its mistakes and saves the wedding. The wedding is a success, and Kayla gets her job back. The film ends in a similar fashion that many of Tom and Jerry’s stories do. The duo doesn’t remain friends for long, and their arch rivalry is yet again re-ignited. The cat and mouse chase makes a comeback as the credits roll.
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Unfunny and Underdeveloped Characters
There is little to be praised in this boring slapstick effort at the revival of a classic cartoon. Adults and kids alike, rarely anybody will find much enjoyment in the film, if at all. Much of its negative critical reception is thanks to the treatment of its titular character – Tom and Jerry. The film sidelines the two characters, who are the reason anyone would want to watch a movie titled after them. It feels like the studio executives discovered this nostalgic IP lying around, dormant, and decided to cash it in. And thus, a poorly written and shabbily executed film is made, all ripe with nostalgia-bait, ready to disappoint everyone. The movie is filled with badly written dialogues, which derive their humor from cringe-comedy.
What should have focused on the shenanigans-filled adventures of Tom and Jerry, ends up focusing on uninteresting human characters. Not to mention, one of the protagonists, Kayla is shown to con her way to a job – not exactly a good lesson for the children going to watch the movie. The film severely under-utilizes the titular characters. Even the human characters are given nothing to work with. The audience is supposed to care about a rich couple’s wedding which is neither interesting nor fleshed out as characters. The film also, for some bizarre reason, contains classic hip-hop songs that are irrelevant to today’s kids. Viewers are also given a periodic recap by a couple of animated birds for some reason throughout the movie.
Under-utilization Of Tom And Jerry
Tom & Jerry stars comedic talents like Michael Peña and Ken Jeong, but they are not given anything worthwhile to work with. The humor is mediocre and difficult to get through. There is no story arc for Tom and Jerry, other than the familiar and redundant fighting, reconciling, and fighting again. Even that will work, but lack of creativity and ingenuity renders the fighting sequences boring and unfunny. The film does not do a good job at even replicating the slapstick humor of the animated cartoon series.
The film gets too bogged down with the human characters and the unfunny jokes. The creative sequences of Tom and Jerry’s rivalry are sporadically dispersed throughout the film. But the majority of the runtime is concerned with the trivial wedding planning of a boring rich couple and the surrounding conflicts. Although the CG animation nicely blends with live-action sequences, it doesn’t help make it any more entertaining. The additional poop and fart jokes do not help either.
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Failing At Translating The Cartoon Series To A Film
The film underestimates the audience, both the children and the adults, who might have grown up watching the cartoon. Chloë Grace Moretz tries her best to make most of what she’s given, but like her co-stars, she can’t do much here.
The reason why the classic cartoon worked so well was because of its runtime. A 7-8 minutes cartoon short about two voiceless animals makes sense. But to stretch it to the runtime of a proper feature-length movie is another thing. It requires a different approach and meticulous planning. A thing this film miserably fails at. There’s not much you can do with the two characters that do not speak at all. There’s only so much physical humor you can incorporate before it becomes trite. That’s why it is necessary to add on extra characters other than Tom and Jerry. However, there’s a better way to do that. The human characters are not the problem, the unfunny dialogues they are given are. And that’s true for every character in this film, even the mouse-and-cat sequences, which will unlikely evoke any kind of laughter in the viewers.
Tom & Jerry is currently streaming on HBO Max.