Released: 1st April
Seen: 8th July
Ever since Who Framed Roger Rabbit, there have been a lot of attempts at putting animated characters into the real world. No film has ever really come close to Who Framed Roger Rabbit in terms of making that combination work, but where a lot of them falter has been the story. You notice how a lot of these films really lean on the main characters travelling cross country in a car with whatever B-list actor they could hire that month. Recently there’ve been more bad attempts at this with Sonic the Hedgehog being bad (sorry, it was) and some pretty good attempts like Detective Pikachu. So, on the spectrum between Sonic and Pikachu, where does Tom & Jerry fall? Right smack in the middle, perfect mediocrity.
Tom & Jerry mostly follows a young woman named Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) who has managed to talk her way into getting a job at the Royal Gate Hotel, one of the fanciest hotels in New York that happens to be hosting a fancy wedding that very weekend. While preparing for this big event, Chef Jackie (Ken Jeong) notices a small brown mouse in his kitchen. The mouse is named Jerry, at least that’s what his card says, and Kayla’s given the job of trying to catch him. She enlists the help of a wily grey cat named Tom to catch the mouse and assorted chaos ensues.
For the first five minutes of this film, I genuinely had hope for this movie. There were some good jokes, the opening scene with Tom and Jerry competing for attention from a throng of people in the park had a lot of good moments and some funny lines. The animation is genuinely fantastic, a modern visualisation of the classic style that these characters are famous for. I was actually ready to really enjoy this film… and then Kayla walked on screen and the film’s biggest flaw slowly became apparent. Tom and Jerry are side characters in their own movie.
Re-read that plot synopsis, it’s all about a wedding going wrong and Tom and Jerry are the obstacles that must be gotten over. They aren’t the characters we follow or even spend the most time with, they’re the comic relief… IN THEIR OWN MOVIE! I didn’t come here to see Hit Girl try to keep her job working at the fanciest hotel I’ve ever seen while a pair of obscenely rich people have meaningless squabbles about their very fancy wedding. I came here to see Tom chase Jerry around, intercut with large amounts of cartoon violence because that’s what Tom & Jerry is… and then it hit me, it’s impossible to make a great Tom & Jerry film, which is why this could never really work.
Tom & Jerry work best in 7 minute increments, the shorts that made them famous work because it’s a single set piece that allows a range of elaborate chase scenes and Jerry can always outsmart Tom and make him scream like only Tom can… that doesn’t really work for 100 minutes. Stretching that out to 100 minutes will end up making it boring, so instead they have to have small bursts of pure Tom & Jerry silliness every now and then, which are the high points of the film. Everything else that they do in order to break up the stuff we came to see is less fun, it’s standard cheesy family film stuff and it’s not worth investing in.
What really sucks is there are some ideas here that I love. I love that the filmmakers decided that if Tom and Jerry were going to be cartoons then every animal would be a cartoon, it helps create a world where this is completely normal and keeps us far from the uncanny valley . Granted they also don’t really have that many animals in the film, only ones that will directly interact with one of the main characters which leads to a large amount of animation barren sequences where you can feel the absence of animals. Still, it’s a fun idea that I kind of wish they used a little more. I also can’t deny that most of the cast is trying to make this work. Sure, none of them are at Bob Hoskins level where I absolutely believed that they were interacting with cartoon characters but they at least had their moments.
I also can’t deny that this film has some decent laughs, from silly lines like “He’s not blind, that’s just a regular cat playing the piano!” to some fun slapstick moments courtesy of our titular duo. When the film actually focuses on Tom and Jerry themselves there is something here that might at least be worth a little bit of time… and then we have to pretend to care about the humans again, I barely pretend I care about humans in my day to day life and this film has the nerve to think I’m going to care about humans when there’s cartoon shenanigans to be had?
Tom & Jerry might not be the worst animation-live action hybrid I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the most ill planned. These characters just really don’t work in a feature length format, but they especially don’t work when you make them the side characters of their own movie. Maybe if you have real little kids and want to distract them with something colourful, this film isn’t actively going to hurt them in any way but maybe just pull out copies of the shorts from the 1940s and introduce these characters as they were meant to be enjoyed.