You grew up on Tom and Jerry. I grew up on Tom and Jerry. Basically, anyone born after 1940 grew up on Tom and Jerry. For better or for worse, watching Tom & Jerry: The Movie forces you to align your childhood memories with the characters appearing on your screen. Yes, that creates a potential problem that only the deftest of filmmakers can overcome. No, Tom & Jerry: The Movie does not overcome it.
The film primarily takes place at the fictional Royal Gate Hotel in New York City. Jerry (the mouse) takes up residence in the hotel, and newly hired event staffer Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) offers Tom (the cat) as a possible solution to the hotel’s mouse problem. Tom’s attempts to evict Jerry occur as the hotel prepares for the “Wedding of the Century” between Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda), owners of Spike (the dog) and Toots (the cat), respectively.
Suspicious from the start, Kayla’s boss Terrance (Michael Peña) keeps a close eye on Kayla and Tom, ready to pounce on any possible mistake. Kayla does have a few allies at the hotel, however, including Cameron (Jordan Bolger ), the bartender, and Joy (Patsy Ferran), the bellhop.
If you think I am mentioning a lot of humans in what should be a film primarily about an animated cat and mouse, you are circling around the primary flaw in the film. Tom and Jerry’s antics serve as the comic relief in the human story rather than the humans serving as the backdrop to Tom and Jerry’s adventures. Still, the focus on the humans might have worked had their stories been stronger and more engaging. The jealous boss and wedding plans run amok plots have potential for a more adult-oriented film. In Tom & Jerry, they feel like fluffy filler subplots that were mysteriously given priority over the stars.
Tom & Jerry did get a few things right. Keeping a simplified, 2D aesthetic when rendering the animal characters helps to give them a pleasant, nostalgic vibe. The action sequences between Tom and Jerry are also very reminiscent of their vintage cartoons. At the core of it, the cat and mouse are what succeed in the film, and director Tim Story did not utilize them nearly enough.
What could have worked, but was never attempted, was taking the idea of Tom & Jerry a little less seriously. Breaking the fourth wall or acknowledging just how over-the-top violent Tom and Jerry can be could have been a lot of fun. Instead, we get a fairly earnest comedy that shoehorns in a few lessons about learning to work together and listening to others. There is also an extremely unearned resolution at the end of the film, finishing things on an unsatisfying note.
Kids will probably enjoy the fun animated animals and cartoon violence in the movie, and there is hopefully a sufficient amount to keep them engaged. As for the adults watching with them? There might be just enough nostalgia in Tom & Jerry: The Movie to make it watchable, but probably not enough to sit through a second viewing.
Tom & Jerry: The Movie is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.
About Tom & Jerry: The Movie
Runtime: 1h 41m
Rating: PG (Brief Language|Rude Humor|Cartoon Violence)
One of the most beloved rivalries in history is reignited when Jerry moves into New York City’s finest hotel on the eve of “the wedding of the century,” forcing the event’s desperate planner to hire Tom to get rid of him, in director Tim Story’s “Tom & Jerry.” The ensuing cat and mouse battle threatens to destroy her career, the wedding and possibly the hotel itself. But soon, an even bigger problem arises: a diabolically ambitious staffer conspiring against all three of them.