Tom & Jerry

 

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History's longest game of cat and mouse continues in colourful live-action - with dire 

results.

 
Tom & Jerry

Child's play: Tom, Chloë Grace Moretz and Jerry

 

The invention of cartoon comedy masters William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Tom and Jerry boast an impressive résumé. From their Oscar-nominated 1940 debut in Puss Gets the Boot to a tap routine with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh, the duo has been delighting audiences for generations. The original cartoon shorts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, of which there are 114, were all directed by Hanna-Barbera and produced by former Film Review contributor Fred C. Quimby, in his tenure as the head of MGM Cartoons. During that original run, Jerry garnered more Oscars than Mickey, with a record 13 nominations and seven wins (versus Mickey’s ten nominations and sole win in 1941 for Lend a Paw).

 

Hanna-Barbera parted ways in 1958 when MGM decided to close their cartoon studio. The successful animated franchise was soon revived in the early 1960s, first with Gene Deitch and then in the experienced hands of Looney Tunes’ producer Chuck Jones. During this period, the MGM vault fire of 1965 destroyed all of the original negatives for many of the pre-1951 shorts. Thankfully they survived through secondary prints for reissue and television. Beginning in the 1970s, the domestic shorthair and brown house mouse launched a new TV series every decade. Their first campaign into feature length films was a near box-office bomb, 1992’s Tom and Jerry: The Movie, which disastrously gave the mostly mute characters full-on speaking roles. A decade later, the toonsters returned to the feature length format with 13 direct-to-video films and in 2019, even launched their own stage musical in Japan, titled Purr-chance to Dream. After over 80 years of rivalry, the animated twosome is at it again in their first live-action feature, Tom & Jerry.

 

Recalling the antics of the 1946 Oscar-winning short The Cat Concerto, the film opens with Tom dreaming of becoming a concert pianist while performing as a ‘blind’ keyboard player in New York’s Central Park. After tackling the painful process of apartment hunting on a budget, Jerry observes a financially lucrative performance of ‘The Amazing Tom’ and decides to get in on the act, breaking Tom’s keyboard in the process. The cat gives chase and runs smack into Kyla Forester (Chloë Grace Moretz), ruining her dry-cleaning delivery. Fresh out of work as a result, Kayla swipes a free meal at the Royal Gate Hotel, where she lifts the résumé of an accomplished events specialist and lands herself a position assisting on the wedding event of the season. Coincidentally, Jerry takes up residence in the same hotel, causing quite a stir among the kitchen staff. Kayla volunteers to catch Jerry and hires Tom to hunt down his arch-rival.

 

Intended as a Who Framed Roger Rabbit meets Space Jam styled romp, Tom & Jerry fails to capture the same humour and magic of even their own oeuvre. Good children’s films transcend age and that’s unfortunately not the case here, as this is strictly child’s play. Tom and Jerry is an inherently difficult property to translate to the big screen. Unlike many other contemporaries, they’re traditionally non-speaking, which means someone else must carry the story for two hours. As a result, the cat and mouse become supporting players and, at times, even the antagonists of their own film. The whole affair is filled with bits of bizarre dialogue and a head scratching cast, including Bobby Cannavale as the bulldog Spike. It’s a waste of talent, given that Spike’s canine vocabulary is only slightly larger than Vin Diesel’s Groot. Fellow MGM Cartoon character Droopy dog appears, in the form of a subway advertisement and in a cameo paying homage to The Silence of the Lambs. Legend has it that the animator John Carr won fifty dollars in a contest to name the cartoon critters, with his choices possibly deriving from the popular Christmas cocktail of the time. Parents may find themselves in need of a ‘Tom & Jerry’ after sitting through this one. 

 

CHAD KENNERK

 

Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, Ken Jeong, Pallavi Sharda; Voices of  Bobby Cannavale, Nicky Jam, Joey Wells, Harry Ratchford, Spank Horton, Na'im Lynn, Lil Rel Howery, Tim Story.

 

Dir Tim Story, Pro Chris DeFaria, Screenplay Kevin Costello, Ph Alan Stewart, Pro Des James Hambidge, Ed Peter S. Elliot, Music Christopher Lennertz, Costumes Alison McCosh.

 

Warner Animation Group/The Story Company/Turner Entertainment Co.-Warner Bros.

101 mins. USA. 2021. Rel: 25 March 2021. Cert. PG.