Tom and Jerry might be Hanna-Barbera’s most enduring and beloved creations. With 164 short films and seven Oscars to their names, the cat and mouse duo have been making audiences laugh for more than eighty years now, but they haven’t had much success in the world of feature length films. Before this latest live-action/animation mashup, they last graced the silver screen in a fully animated feature that inexplicably gave them dialogue and stuffed inside the plot of a Disney musical with the serial numbers filed off. While this latest film isn’t too much of an improvement, it happily feels a little more like the cultural idea of Tom and Jerry.
It’s a somewhat bizarre set-up: Tom and Jerry move into an expensive five-star hotel in downtown Manhattan, much to the displeasure of the staff (Rob Delaney as the owner, Michael Peña as the event manager). That same day, Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) impersonates a distinguished wedding planner in the desperate hopes of landing a job. She’s hired on for the week to assist with the hotel’s massive event: the upcoming wedding of New York cultural elites Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda), who are totally not based on Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra at all. Kayla’s first assignment? Get rid of the mouse. She decides to bring in Tom and set him loose on Jerry, but as the engaged couple bickers about wedding details, things spiral out of control. Caught in a whirlwind of slapstick and animated animals, Kayla might not be able to handle the wild situation.
Does that sound needlessly convoluted and not necessarily the kind of material that makes Tom and Jerry memorable? Because it really isn’t. The human plotline is a waste as extravagant as the animated elephants that Ben brings in for the wedding ceremony. The actors try their best to sell the material, but you can’t shake the feeling that the scenes with the human characters are just standard family film stock. The scenes with Tom and Jerry are surprisingly in line with their classic appearances during the 1940s: there’s an appropriate amount of slapstick and cartoony violence that feels like a natural modern day update to their antics. The animation is generally rather impressive, and they’ve taken the time to make it feel in line with the standard set by Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The characters rarely feel out of place or as if they’re floating in the frame.
If only the rest of the film had followed the example set by the animation team and brought that same amount of love and care to the rest of the project. Unfortunately, Tom & Jerry feels more like a successor to last year’s Scoob! than anything else. That’s the saddest thing about it: it feels more like filmmaking by committee, approved by focus groups hosted by Warner Brothers that shoved Tom and Jerry into a box they don’t necessarily fit in.
21, born and raised in Boston. Mamma Mia wine mom personality. Jerry Gogosian of the film world.