The newest version of Tom and Jerry a hybrid live action/animated film, asks more questions than it answers.
“But … but … What?”
And so it goes.
On its surface, whether this movie needs to exist is immaterial. Beloved characters have been made, remade and rebooted over the years many times over many media. Tom and Jerry themselves have had several such renaissances — even through, believe it or not, a version where the classic cat-and-mouse rivals were actually best buds.
But this version isn’t the way to do it. Director Tim Story is a former music video director whose feature filmography is dotted with tripe like the first two Fantastic Four films, Taxi (the Queen Latifah / Jimmy Fallon version), 2019’s woeful Shaft continuation, two Ride Along films (though, to be fair, he also helmed the solid Barbershop).
Tom and Jerry fits right in with some of that, and with several other recent poor cartoon-to-film adaptations like The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks, although those comparisons also suggest a franchise longevity that Tom and Jerry hopefully does not have the legs for, lest we want a version where the furry foes wash up on a deserted island.
But because some of the less-creative among those we pay to entertain us have deemed it necessary, this film exists in a reality where all animals are cartoons. Not just the title characters, but random elephants, birds, dogs, and other cats and mice, are all flat, 2D-animated drawn characters. The live-action humans don’t seem to notice or mind all that much, least of all Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz, for whom we should feel sorry), a con artist who scams her way into a job at a posh hotel where Tom and Jerry just happen to be holed up.
And right on time, as it turns out, since the best our studio screenwriters could come up with was to have an ever-battling cat and mouse help facilitate the douchey nuptials of a social-media celebrity douchebag couple (Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda).
When Kayla discovers the hotel has a mouse (read: Jerry) problem, she hires Tom to take care of it, which of course leads to jokes from the hotel manager about whether they’re allowed to fire Tom once his job is done — because the kids love a good discrimination lawsuit gag.
The script was penned by Kevin Costello, whose other feature credit was Brigsby Bear, a film I didn’t see but would surmise has a lot more personality, joy, and humor than this film. Here we get Michael Peña (the Ant Man films) as the hotel’s insecure event planner because why wouldn’t he be when the manager (Rob Delaney) is an idiot? He serves as the de facto villain looking to sabotage the wedding after Kayla takes his job but never really receives the comeuppance a sin like that usually commands in movies of this type. Because who really cares anyway?
Tom and Jerry is soulless, joyless and humorless, and about as original as you’d expect. Sure, there’s a scene where peacocks have sex in a hotel lobby (or at least try to), and another where Pena interrogates Tom and Jerry, and his words appear in the scene like a cell phone commercial, and … OK, one fun cameo but one that was done leagues better in another movie years ago (P-p-p-p-p-please, don’t try to compare these two live-action/animated hybrid films.) But none of it really means anything.
Last year’s Scoob! promised a Hanna Barbera-verse to resurrect characters out of the pop-culture rotation for too long. But it, too, was only a flick chasing its own tail, hoping nostalgia would make Warner Brothers a little cash. Now, two lousy films in, I really find myself hoping to stumble onto some of the old cartoons. At least then I can be reminded that there’s more to those characters than this dreck.