Tom & Jerry (2021) Review
Directed by Tim Story – who, like it or not, has directed the best FANTASTIC FOUR movies to date – TOM & JERRY sees Warner Brothers take yet another stab at trying to launch the iconic cat and mouse duo to feature-length success. It immediately makes things weird by going for a WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT-style blend of live-action and animation and giving us a world where every animal is animated. It may not sound too weird in writing, but seeing is disbelieving.
In Manhattan, Tom Cat nurtures dreams of becoming a pianist – because that’s also something that’s not weird in thus hybrid world – and spends his days busking in Central Park while Jerry is searching for a new home. During one of these house hunting expeditions, Jerry accidentally interrupts Tom’s performance, rekindling their revialry and setting off a frantic chase. Meanwhile, Kayla Forester (Chloë Grace Moretz), a street-smart young woman bluffs her way into New York’s fanciest hotel, where Jerry also decides to set up shop, prompting Tom to strike a deal with Kayla to dispatch the mouse who threatens her cushy new job.
In looking for words to describe TOM & JERRY, I keep coming back to weird. It’s a decidedly odd movie with a lot of strange choices that are curious in isolation and downright bizarre in combination with all the others. There’s a musical Greek chorus of sorts of pigeons who pop up occasionally but not often enough to feel like they’re a proper part of the movie. Their rap which opens the movie is excruciatingly bad, though, so you can see why they may have had more scenes only to lose out in the editing suite but again and again, the film baffles with its choices.
Fundamentally, for a film called TOM & JERRY, it wastes too much time and too much talent on irrelevant live-action shenanigans and tedious subplots involving wedding jitters and various hotel administration duties instead of letting its real stars do what they do best. The wit and wisdom of TOM & JERRY has always been in their dizzyingly creative slapstick and while the movie makes a concerted effort to reprise some of their greatest [literal] hits, it does so to rapidly diminishing returns.
Having real-life people react in horror to their cat and mouse hijinks robs them not only of their humour but just serves to emphasise that, taken out of their cosy cartoon context, they’re horrifically, brutally violent. And it’s not just the animated fare that feels distastefully brutal – the way the general populace of New York treats Tom is aggressively, unprovokedly cruel too.
There are moments – albeit fleeting – when the film works and the likes of Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Pena and Rob Delaney, old pros that they are, manage to make the best of a bad situation and a worse script (watch out, too, for Patsy Ferran as Joy the bellhop stealing almost any scene she’s in) but Pallavi Sharda and Colin Jost (of SNL fame) struggle to bring anything to characters so underwritten and two-dimensional they probably count as animations themselves.
There’s nothing in this hundred-minute misfire that ever even gets close to matching the artistry and genius of any of the original shorts such as THE CAT CONCERTO (1947), THE TWO MOUSEKETEERS (1952) or – my personal all-time favourite – MICE FOLLIES (1954) and you’ll have an immeasurably better time just watching sixteen or seventeen of the original classic cartoons back to back.