‘Tom & Jerry’ Is A Clunky Caper That Fails To Make Us Care

Warner Bros has made a lot of strange choices when it comes to Tom & Jerry. The film attempts to blend 2D animation with the real world, yet every animated thing looks distinctly out-of-place. Add this to the fact that the opening scene focuses on a group of rapping pigeons, and it’s safe to say that the film makes a bit of a bizarre first impression. Once the attention has strayed from the pigeons, we are introduced to the beloved cartoon duo, who we see meeting for the first time (not under friendly circumstances, of course).

Jerry is looking for a comfortable place to live in New York, having looked around many unclean and cramped mouse-sized “apartments.” Tom, on the other hand, is making money by playing the piano on the streets, hoping to one day play professionally. In a twist of fate, they cross paths and immediately begin wreaking havoc on each others lives. They also meet Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz), a down-on-her-luck young woman who has lost her job and finds her way into a temporary position at a posh hotel. Helping to prepare for a big celebrity wedding, she tries to keep the infamous cat and mouse from ruining the occasion. Moretz is joined by Michael Peña as the hotel’s events manager, and Ken Jeong playing a high-strung chef, among others.

While Tom & Jerry includes some talented comedic actors, it fails to use them well. Peña is not nearly as charismatic as he’s capable of being, and Jeong is sidelined. He’s an actor who is well known for his over-the-top, crazy performances; his chaotic energy is a perfect fit for Tom & Jerry, yet he only gets one good meltdown moment near the end of the film. No one in the cast is really done justice, simply because next to no effort is put into the human characters. They are, for the most part, astoundingly two dimensional. Even the ones who are meant to be sympathetic, like Kayla, make morally questionable choices that no one in the real world would ever forgive.

When it comes to the writing, the film only really knows how to deal with its animated cast. There are plenty of moments filled with the glorious cartoon violence we all remember from the original iteration of Tom & Jerry by Hanna-Barbera and MGM. Cats and mice are crushed under household objects (remaining unscathed, obviously), elaborate traps are set, and this is the essence of what Tom & Jerry is all about. We watched the cartoons for the conflict, the comedy, and the exaggerated violence that no one else could possibly survive. This is one of the few things the film gets right, as well as inserting various recognisable characters like Butch the bulldog, and the vicious alley cats. However, callbacks to the cartoons are not enough to make up for the flimsy story and lacklustre characters.

It also doesn’t detract from the fact that the animation style is uncomfortable to watch. A mixture of animation and live-action can be done very well, just look at Who Framed Roger Rabbit? This film doesn’t manage it, though. The characters are not just two dimensional, they also lack shading. The flatness of the colour makes the characters look even flatter than they already are. There is no attempt to blend the animated world with the real one. As such, the animals stick out like a sore thumb, looking like they’ve been photoshopped in.

Tom & Jerry fails to present an interesting story or well-written characters. The only outright fun is when Tom and Jerry get to do their thing. The duo’s conflict might still be entertaining after all this time, but the best place to watch that unfold is in the original cartoons.

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