The classic cartoon cat and mouse, Tom and Jerry, have been chasing each other and fighting since the 1940’s. They’ve appeared in several series and feature films over the years, always causing chaos wherever they went. Now, for the first time ever, they’ve appeared in a live action/animation hybrid film in a similar vein to movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Space Jam. Is this new film enough to honor the legacy of these animated icons, or does it fall flatter than Tom under a steamroller? Let’s take a closer look to find out.
Something that could always go horribly wrong with live action/animation hybrid movies is that the animation could either look out of place or just plain bad. In Tom and Jerry, however, the animation is overall especially well done. The animators used 3D animation techniques to bring these 2D characters to life while also keeping their classic cartoony feel. Tom and Jerry’s designs haven’t been changed at all, they’re very expressive, and they obey the old school cartoon laws of physics where they can stretch, be flattened, and get mangled like they always have been able to. Another feat the animators pulled off that many viewers were skeptical of was that they ensured literally all animals in the film were animated. Even cooked meat is animated when it’s seen. This helps with establishing cartoon rules in a live action world. There may be one or two moments where slight movements of some animated characters look off, but those moments are pretty small and missable.
Tom and Jerry as a franchise has always focused on extremely violent slapstick humor, and that slapstick that fans of the classic cartoons love is present here as well. The scenes where Tom and Jerry get to chase each other and fight iplay out similarly to how they would in their old TV shows. Tom gets hit with an iron which transforms his face into the shape of the iron. Jerry smashes Tom’s fingers with a bowling ball. Jerry slides a mouse hole across a wall causing Tom to flatten his face when he tries to dive into it. These scenes are absolutely hilarious, and the hits do get pretty creative. Their fights also have actual consequences to the world around them as they destroy hotel rooms and wreck pianos. Fans of the classic Tom and Jerry and newcomers who enjoy slapstick humor have a lot to enjoy when the cat and mouse duke it out.
The slapstick isn’t the only great humor in the movie. There are quite a few human characters who have witty one-liners throughout the film as well. You may be wishing you were seeing more of Tom and Jerry on screen, but at least Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, and Colin Jost can produce enough laughs to keep one entertained. Lines like “Wi the Fi not?” in response to being asked why something needs WiFi are definitely worth a chuckle. There is one character, the manager of the hotel, who steals the spotlight with his subtle quips and zany lines all said with a straight face.
Fans who grew up with Tom and Jerry should be happy to know that the titular cat and mouse aren’t the only iconic characters to be featured in the film. Characters like Spike, Butch, and even Droopy appear, further celebrating the legacy of Tom and Jerry. Much of this movie feels like an homage to the classic show. They even use the sound clip of Tom’s old school scream. Also, Tom and Jerry thankfully don’t speak like they have in some of their straight-to-DVD movies.
The scenes where Tom and Jerry duke it out are great and would make any Hanna-Barbera fan happy. However, the movie’s focus shifts away from that a little too much. The film has the audience spend about half of their time or more with the human characters. The central conflict is more focused on Moretz’s character, Kayla, as she needs to prepare the hotel for a fancy wedding while Tom and Jerry’s antics get in her way. On one hand, these human characters are funny enough to keep viewers of all ages entertained. On the other, they distract from the attention that should be more on Tom and Jerry since it is their movie. To top it off, the story and many sub conflicts involving these human characters are rather predictable.
Terrence, the movie’s antagonist, gets off a bit too easily in the end. He causes a lot of the misfortune for the other characters, including ruining a wedding, but doesn’t have much of a comeuppance. In fact, his boss and the others treat him like he did nothing wrong, and he gets his job back after having a brief suspension earlier in the story. He doesn’t even learn a lesson from what he did. All of the blame is put on Kayla even though nothing would have gone wrong if it weren’t for Terrence. It’s rather frustrating.
Toward the end of the film, Tom and Jerry ultimately need to put their differences aside to make things right between the soon-to-be newlyweds. Tom and Jerry are meant to fight each other and always have been, but there’s nothing necessarily wrong with some character development in a movie. They learn to work together and cease their fighting, which is development that makes sense for this story. However, all development goes out the window when they suddenly resume their combat. It works well for Tom and Jerry, but not so much for a movie. It’s also odd that the filmmakers made a point to give them a reason to fight earlier in the film, just to have them fight for no reason at the end.
Tom and Jerry is a fun little flick for lovers of slapstick and those who enjoyed the classic cartoons. Newcomers and younger audiences are sure to enjoy it as well. It is pretty upsetting, though, that the titular characters aren’t as front and center as they should be and that we’re stuck with a predictable plot involving the human characters for so much of the movie. When Tom and Jerry do get into their violent antics, it’s an absolute blast, but there are too many other things going on. It celebrates its source material and showcases what Tom and Jerry is all about despite not having enough focus on them.
The story is predictable but heartfelt. Overall, the film is nothing too special one way or another. It’s not the next big thing, nor is it terrible. It feels like a lighthearted children’s movie that we’ve all already seen before, but with a few classic Tom and Jerry scenes mixed in.
Rating: 7 / 10