Rating – ⭐⭐
Usually it’s easy to get a film review to an appropriate length – good films have plenty to rave about, bad films have plenty to rant about, and mediocre-to-unremarkable films can be broken down into their interesting parts. Tom and Jerry: The Movie, of all films, is somehow so unappealing, so vanilla, and so totally uninspired of a film that it actually doesn’t have anything worth talking about. This film was in development hell for a decade, and it shows. The past 20 years have produced the best kids animations, and best animations full stop, of all time.
Watch those instead.
This is a pretty mundane story that would suit a bad 90s rom-com, or a Hallmark Christmas movie, or something of that standard. Tom and Jerry – the cat and mouse rivals of our childhoods – end up in a swanky hotel just before a wedding, with Chloe Grace Moretz trying to stop the CGI duo ruining her burgeoning career at the hotel. There’s a lot of fighting, some nasty villains, a destructive climax and a sappy ending. Standard stuff that doesn’t really merit writing about.
The slapstick and the sections where Tom and Jerry find ways to creatively beat the snot out of each other aren’t too shabby, and they’re the only thing really to look forward to in the film, as well as the reason it’s a grudging 2 out of 5 stars. But there’s just so much time spent without the duo on the screen, and without the cat and mouse this film is so, so boring. It’s simply low-effort, poorly written conflict between the 1-dimensional human characters that just doesn’t need to be there. There’s no imagination in it, no inspiration, none of the absurdist craziness that the franchise has delivered in the past.
For a long time, this wasn’t meant to be a live-action film, and it should have stayed that way. The interactions between human and CGI characters feel clunky at best and deep in the uncanny valley at worst, despite the generally commendable animation, splitting the film into two unresolvable halves. But the real issue at heart is that Tom and Jerry: The Movie isn’t a concept that will ever work, and leaves audiences with the cynical feeling that this is a botch job rushed out to make a quick buck.
An Ailing Franchise
It’s slightly weird to think that Tom and Jerry is a franchise with nearly as many Oscars as The Godfather. But the cat and mouse used to dominate the Best Animated Short Film award, though the majority of their wins came about 75 years ago. The plain truth is that animation has moved on. Films like Into the Spider-Verse (2018) are rewriting the rulebook on animation and kids films, and without any kind of reinvention, inspiration or reinvigoration, Tom and Jerry as a franchise is on life support, doomed to play the hits over and over and fill in the rest with cheap comedy and boring drama, as this film has proven.
Not to mention, of course, that the length and conventions of a film are anathema to the quick-fire, frenetic style of Tom and Jerry, which simply doesn’t have the time or grounding to deal with things like a coherent story or imaginative characters. The joy has always come from its simplicity; the comedic and overblown villain, the plucky yet determined underdog (or mouse). The sheer imaginative madness that follows can only last the length of a short episode without deflating. A film that retains the hand-drawn greatness of the old Oscar-winners isn’t on the cards, and feels unlikely to ever be so, and so Tom and Jerry: The Movie is consigned to being a routine slapstick that never really should’ve been forced into existence.
Image: momokacma via Flickr