You can count me among the many who grew up watching “Tom and Jerry”. Not the countless straight to DVD feature films, but the classic Hanna and Barbera shorts that have played and replayed for decades. And as a testament to their timelessness, my two kids (both in their upper teens now) latched onto the cat and mouse rivals when they were children, cackling at their wacky hijinks and watching them whenever they were on television.
This latest iteration of the titular slapstick duo has been in the works since 2009. Created as a live-action/computer-animated mash-up, “Tom & Jerry” is helmed by director Tom Story. The story takes place in New York City where all animals (and only animals) are animated. Don’t ask me why. I really have no idea. Weird singing pigeons, elephants, peacocks, a bengal tiger, and of course Thomas D. Cat and Jerome A. Mouse, all vividly animated and melded into the real-world setting. Right off the bat you notice the animation as one of the film’s strengths (except for the annoying pigeons but that’s enough about them).
You might think Tom and Jerry would be the stars of their own movie but that’s not the case. In fact they often play second fiddle to the human characters, namely Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz). She’s a down-on-her-luck twenty-something who has lost her job but fibs her way into a temporary position at New York City’s Royal Gate Hotel. She wins the trust of the hotel’s manager Rob Delaney but catches the ire of Terrance (Michael Peña), the event manager and the film’s human antagonist. What’s funny is that he’s also the only person smart enough to recognize how ridiculous things become.
It turns out the Royal Gate is set to host the proverbial ‘Wedding of the Century‘ between high society socialites Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda). Preparations are underway but are instantly threatened when both Tom and Jerry arrive. Unfortunately we only get their signature chaotic mayhem in a few small bursts and in ways that only seems to serve the human characters and their stories. The film is mostly focused on Kayla who’s tasked with removing the mouse problem once Jerry moves into the hotel. And what better way to impress management and secure full-time employment than getting rid of the rodent and saving the big wedding? So she hires Tom to discreetly help. Guess how that goes.
So basically Tom and Jerry end up relegated to supporting duty for the trite and shallow human stories. In fairness asking two non-speaking animated characters who were at their best doing six-minute shorts to carry a movie like this is a tall order. But this movie needs more of them. Still “Tom & Jerry” does have a playful spirit which young kids will enjoy and it scatters a few giggles along the way which keep it from being too dry. And while this is no “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, the classic 2-D animation is a warm and nostalgic touch. If only those pesky (and boring) human characters would have stayed out of the way. “Tom & Jerry” is now showing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS