Tom & Jerry: The Movie, 2021.
Directed by Tim Story.
Starring Tom, Jerry, Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Ken Jeong, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, Christina Chong, Pallavi Sharda, Brian Stepanek, Camilla Arfwedson, Jordan Bolger, Daniel Adegboyega, Bobby Cannavale, Nicky Jam, Joey Wells, Harry Ratchford, Will ‘Spank’ Horton, Na’im Lynn, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Tim Story.
An eye-popping blend of classic animation and live action, Tom and Jerry’s new big-screen adventure stakes new ground for the iconic characters and forces them to do the unthinkable… work together to save the day.
There is a short list of things to like about this live-action/animation hybrid take on Tom & Jerry: The Movie (and an even shorter list of worthwhile films from its director Tim Story). Starting off with a streetside musical competition seeing the titular cat and mouse (who are credited as playing themselves) trying to one-up each other playing instruments for tips, it’s initially promising. Admittedly, it’s charming and does set up a creatively playful environment where real people already see and can interact with these cartoon characters (plenty of other Hanna-Barbera fan favorites are here as well as some new animated animals). Toss in the setting of New York City and limitless possibilities emerge for the game these rivals play.
Primarily, Tom & Jerry: The Movie actually takes place inside of a lavish hotel where a grand Indian wedding is set to take place, which is still a refreshing setting away from the usual household antics but also feels restricting and familiar in its own ways. Enter Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz, who gives what might be her worst performance but something that can’t even be blamed on her considering everything is awkward about the hybrid interactions here), a struggling young adult actively searching for a job but lacking the necessary skills to find positions. Naturally, she applies for a job at the aforementioned hotel but with the caveat of stealing a more accomplished woman’s resume and using that to impress the staff played by Michael Peña and Rob Delaney (actors that are usually funny given some terrible dialogue here).
Then there’s the actual couple about to tie the knot, Preeta and Ben (Pallavi Sharda and Colin Jost respectively) who are devoid of any characterization which would be fine and welcome in a Tom and Jerry movie if not for the fact that they are going through some premarital strife of their own not seeing eye to eye on the size of the wedding. Simultaneously, Tom and Jerry are looking for new homes and both decide to set up inside the hotel, with Jerry’s existence there potentially going to make the whole extravagant celebration a disaster. Kayla, who is not equipped for the actual job let alone getting rid of a mouse, decides to help Tom officially get hired (not without some awful jokes about diversity and discrimination) to officially help with the rodent problem.
The constant overriding frustration here is that Tom & Jerry: The Movie plays like a movie about human characters (there is an arc for Kayla that I doubt anyone will actually care about) that relegates their beloved hijinks to things going on in the background. There is one sequence where Tom and Jerry are let loose absolutely destroying one of the luxurious hotel rooms with some imagination going on, and it lasts for a good five minutes. Sadly, it’s all short-lived because this is a movie about a wedding that could be ruined by Tom and Jerry, rather than actually about Tom and Jerry. It’s no better than a Godzilla movie that spends too much time focusing on real people.
Matters are made worse when accounting for Tim Story’s generally atrocious brand of comedy, which usually comes down to lame references (save for one brilliant Joker Easter Egg tucked away on a billboard during the introduction), cringe bits about adults not understanding social media, or toilet humor involving Spike the bulldog and some burritos. The humor never gets offensively bad like some of the filmmaker’s other works, but it’s also unremarkable and flat here that the movie just goes on with rarely anything interesting happening.
Like so many other recent movies about rivals, the third act of Tom & Jerry sees them joining forces to accomplish a mutual goal, and while that’s kind of cliché, it does make for the only other halfway decent scene in the movie; a chase sequence across the city which goes back to the earlier point that perhaps this movie could have been so much more entertaining without being confined to a building. Either way, Tom & Jerry: The Movie was probably doomed the moment Tim Story signed on to direct; it’s low energy, jarringly realized visually, and straight-up not funny.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com