Tom & Jerry (2021)
“Tom & Jerry” stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Ken Jeong, and Rob Delaney. Released on February 26, 2021, the film has the cat-and-mouse duo wreaking havoc at a New York City hotel.
The film is directed by Tim Story, who also directed films such as “Barbershop”, “Taxi”, “Fantastic Four”, and “Ride Along”. It is based on a series of animated shorts of the same name by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Nothing is more comical and chaotic than the endless struggle between a cat and a mouse when it comes to everlasting rivalries. Warner Brothers’ animation studio, Warner Animation Group, starts 2021 off by revisiting one of the memorable cartoons that define our childhoods. Since its debut in the 1940s, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s “Tom and Jerry” has been entertaining plenty of kids and adults with its enjoyable storylines and clever slapstick. Much like “Scooby-Doo”, it took a simple concept like a cat trying to take out a mouse and made it as fun and endearing as it has any right to be. As a result, it spawned a never-ending franchise that consists of a bunch of shorts, plenty of spin-off shows, a direct-to-video lineup, and a 1992 film adaptation that saw the duo gracing the big screen for the first time with mediocre results. No one wanted to hear Tom and Jerry speak full sentences, dang it! This latest adaptation of the popular source material hopes to correct that mistake by returning to its original roots: many slapstick shenanigans and little to no communication between the main characters. Oh, and plenty of screen time for the duo. This direction, along with my love for the franchise and its animation style, was what got me both excited and curious about the film. Plus, I’m a sucker for things that involve slapstick, whether the film is good or not. Was it able to provide a proper big-screen effort for the cat-and-mouse team, or was it further proof that the concept works best for the small screen? Let’s find out.
The story centers on Tom, a cat who, along with his little rival Jerry, arrives in New York City to start a new life. Jerry takes up residence in the Royal Gate Hotel, where the staff prepares for a huge wedding. Worried that the mouse will ruin this important event, the hotel’s manager Mr. DuBros (Delaney) tasks its new staff member Kayla (Moretz) to get rid of him. She later hires Tom to be the hotel’s exterminator, resulting in him and Jerry igniting their feud. Their battle of wits quickly turns into an all-out war, threatening to destroy Kayla’s career, the wedding, and even the hotel itself. When it comes to the story, the filmmakers usually do what is necessary to keep things simple, lively, and entertaining for both kids and adults. The narratives don’t always work well for everyone in terms of execution, but they sometimes compensate with the combination of heart and silliness. “Tom & Jerry” obviously fits into that category. If you’re familiar with the other live-action/animation hybrids like “Alvin and the Chipmunks”, you can easily pinpoint some of the film’s narrative trappings from a mile away. The story does involve the title characters trying to beat the snot out of one another, but its main focus is on Kayla, who is also attempting to make it big in New York by finding a new job. It’s a simplistic yet amusing plot that started well but faltered heavily by its third act in terms of its screenplay. A couple of plot elements either went absolutely nowhere or were disappointing, such as Terrance (played by Peña), the deputy manager who seemed to be the film’s antagonist according to my research but actually isn’t. I think if they spent more time developing the human characters, the story would’ve been a bit more interesting than it should. The Tom and Jerry scenarios don’t exactly match the cleverness of the classic cartoons from the past, but they were a lot of fun to watch. Tim Story did a suitable job at making these sequences look and feel like an actual “Tom & Jerry” cartoon from my childhood, just with live-action humans. From its cartoonish slapstick to the cat-and-mouse duo’s everlasting charm, the film respectfully understood the basics of what made the source material so delightful. Now I’m not going to go out of my way to praise the film like a super fan because it still has some issues that could’ve been fixed. However, I would say that it’s another tolerable (and harmless) live-action/animation hybrid that’ll satisfy plenty of kids and maybe a few fans of the source material. Despite the human characters being only targets for the film’s cartoony shenanigans, the cast did what they could to deliver some charming performances, and they succeeded for the most part. Chloë Grace Moretz was unsurprisingly decent in her role as Kayla. I wouldn’t say that it’s as good as her performance in her last film, “Shadow in the Cloud”, but it’s agreeable enough for me to appreciate her talent onscreen. Michael Peña and Rob Delaney were also fine in their roles as Terrance and Mr. DuBros, respectively. Another thing I want to mention is the film’s animation. The animators used CGI animation to replicate the style of 2D animation in terms of the character designs and the slapstick. This is in the same veins as the earlier live-action/animated hybrids like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Space Jam”, but with an extra dose of CGI technology. At some points, they look like something out of a cheap CGI animated cartoon on television, especially Jerry. However, I will give the animators credit for actually attempting to recreate the 2D cartoon characters with CGI rather than making them 100% CGI, similar to what they did with “Yogi Bear”, “The Smurfs” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks”. The film’s blend of live-action and animation was solid at best as it suitably hearkens back to the good old days of seeing real humans interacting with 2D animated cartoon characters. The film’s humor was also pretty darn good, especially the slapstick portions. Some of them might not appeal to everyone, including the ones involving popular trends and poop jokes, but most of them worked well enough to tickle my funny bones. In addition to its flawed storytelling, I also have a tiny issue with the film’s soundtrack, which felt a bit off-putting at times. Most of the film’s soundtrack contained songs from the hip-hop category. You know, to fit the film’s New York setting and to make it look hip for the cool kids. It would’ve been nice if they throw a couple of pop songs into the mix just for the sake of variety, but what do I know? I’m a film critic, not a music critic.
Overall, “Tom & Jerry” has plenty of cartoonish and comical moments to provide a respectable dose of family-friendly entertainment. Like Jerry, the film’s story and characters may prove to be a nuisance for most viewers. However, it does well in respecting the source material that has delighted fans for 80 years. With its suitable cast, enjoyable humor, and a solid blend of live-action and animation, this is another adaptation that’s bearable enough to keep some of the people’s childhoods unharmed. If you’re a fan of the source material, then you and your kids might enjoy the film as well.
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