Movie Review: ‘Tom & Jerry’

Director: Tim Story

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, Ken Jeong, Pallavi Sharda

Plot: Jerry sets up a new home in the Royal Gate hotel, where a new staff member recruits Tom to help get rid of the mouse prior to an upcoming lavish wedding.

Review: There’s nothing like an old classic for when a studio wants to make a quick buck. One of the more enduring and iconic members of the Hanna-Barbera canon, Tom and Jerry’s violent antics have become a staple of pop-culture inspiring endless pretenders and spoofs. They have a simple formula – aggravated cat pursues quick-thinking rodent – and the film-makers must have no idea how to build a film about this so instead they padded it with stock characters and sitcom-level comedic set-ups that amount to very little.

One of my favourite, top 10 movies is Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which was released in 1988. Given all the advances in animation technology across the 33 years since, you should expect Tom and Jerry to better integrated into the live action environments than that classic. There’s plenty of moments where they interact with the environments, and that’s fine, but I never felt as though I was looking at cartoon characters living in the real world, instead they looked by cartoons drawn over the top of the screen. The lighting doesn’t change to match their surroundings and they often don’t cast shadows. If this was supposed to convince us that cartoon characters exist alongside real people, it failed. The movie just doesn’t look good. We open up with drone shots of New York City while some cartoon pigeons rap to the camera and it might as well be a popsicle stick paper puppet being waved in front of the screen for how badly keyed into the shots they are.

But if it is funny, who cares? Sadly it’s only going to be funny to single digit aged children who are happy with a bit of mayhem as the comedic timing is terrible. Even when the delivery is fine the scenes are paced and edited in such a slapdash manner that every punchline is accompanied by either a long pause or a jarring cut. There’s good talent here, especially Rob Delaney as an overbearing manager, but their work is getting shredded.

The main story involves a street-smart hustler in need of work using a stolen resume to score a job managing events at a prestigious hotel on Central Park. Kayla (Moretz) is dropped in the deep end because, as well as hoodwinking manager Henry (Delaney) and overbearing and particular events co-ordinator Terence (Peña), she has to prepare for a highly scrutinised marriage between two popular public figures. Amid all this, a mouse has moved into the hotel and Kayla hires a cat to get rid of them. This plot is often lost amid the drama of a missing ring, growing tensions between the upcoming newlyweds, the unravelling of Terence, a love interest bartender and a demented chef. This is one of the most heavily padded narratives this side of…well, anything. They don’t have enough material for the famous duo, so instead we get jokes about Michael Peña picking up dog shit.

It’s not very clear how this world works. Some animals talk, some don’t. It’s not clear if the humans are seeing a cat busking with a keyboard or if this is from the animal’s perspective. They take the time to try and explain Tom’s animosity towards Jerry by adding in a sequence of Jerry destroying Tom’s livelihood, but it gets dropped early in the film. Almost like you don’t need a reason to have a cat chase a mouse. We certainly don’t need the shifting plot devices, where Tom has a different motivation for chasing Jerry in almost every scene. Maybe it’s because Jerry stole a ring, sometimes it’s revenge and it could even be jealousy.

Tom & Jerry is guilty of one of my personal pet hates in children’s cinema. What do the film-makers think their primary audience get out of references to R-Rated movies from before their parent’s time. Both The Warriors and Silence of the Lambs get referenced…not the focus of a joke, just a reference…and the obligatory WB Batman reference comes from the 1989 Tim Burton film version. That was SIX Batmans ago, just in live action.

Credit though to the Joker style movie poster featuring Droopy Dog. Subtle and just slipped in the background.

The kids liked it though. Found it pretty funny.

Rating: TWO out of TEN