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Tom and Jerry
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Mouse In Manhattan"
1 stars

If I had to make a list of the films of the new millennium that inexplicably flopped when they first came out but which were most deserving of being rediscovered and properly appreciated, “Looney Tunes: Back in Action,” Joe Dante’s delirious and delightful 2003 live-action/animation hybrid that worked both as a tribute to the strongest and most nuanced collection of cartoon characters produced by any one studio and as a welcome riposte to “Space Jam,” the financially successful but artistically and comedically bankrupt 1996 film that brought Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the other characters in the Warner Brothers canon back and then had them literally playing backup to Michael Jordan. I found myself thinking a lot about that film while watching “Tom and Jerry”—pretty much in the same way that a drowning man might idly think of a life raft just before going under for the third time. Hell, this attempt to bring back the hyper violent cat-and-mouse team is so dreadful that there were times when I actually found myself thinking that maybe “Space Jam” wasn’t quite that bad after all.

The film is sort of an origin story for the duo, just the first of many uninspired ideas that will come into play. The two arrive separately in New York City with dreams of making it big in the urban jungle—Tom wants to be a musician while Jerry is simply looking for a place to live. They soon cross paths, quickly become sworn enemies (based almost entirely on a dick move on Jerry’s part) and eventually find themselves at a ritzy old hotel. Coincidentally, the spunky Kayla (Chloe Grace Mortez) has just conned her way into a temporary job there helping out with an over-the-top wedding for a rich young couple (Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda) and when Jerry is discovered wreaking havoc in the kitchen, she employs Tom to take him down. This kicks off a long stretch of predictable slapstick that eventually leads to the equally predictable shift when Tom and Jerry are compelled to join forces to help save Kayla’s job and the wedding, both of which are threatened with sabotage by Kayla’s increasingly unhinged supervisor (Michael Pena).

There are any number of problems with “Tom and Jerry” but the principal one is the inescapable fact that while the central characters are undeniably iconic, they just are not cut out to be the center of a full-length feature. Characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, for example, had enough in the way of personality and character shadings that one could potentially hang an entire film around them, as Dante proved so definitively. Tom and Jerry, on the other hand, were not so much characters as they were vehicles for wildly and often brutally funny slapstick and while that worked just fine within the confines of a seven-minute cartoon, it is the kind of thing that wears out its welcome very quickly when stretched out to a feature-length running time. Considering the fact that the duo’s unsuitability for a feature film treatment was already pretty much definitively proven via the 1992 attempt “Tom and Jerry: The Movie,” a project so misbegotten that most of you probably forgot that it even existed until you began reading this sentence, you would have thought that someone involved would have realized this fact but if they did, they elected to press on anyway.

To be fair, this iteration is slightly better than that previous one, if only because director Tim Story doesn’t try to go the el cheapo route employed by that one and because the screenplay does not make the insane mistake of having the normally silent pair talk throughout. Beyond those comparative grace notes, everything else on display here is a mistake. Although the merging of live-action and animation is as seamless as can be from a technical perspective, the film never convincingly suggests that the animated and flesh-and-blood characters are existing in the same space in the way that they did in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” or “Looney Tunes/“ The effect is further hampered by the listless performances from the human actors—not even Moretz, who managed to make the increasingly surreal conceit of the recent “Shadow in the Cloud” work in large part because of her smart and focused performance, is able to make anything out of what she is working with here. As for the slapstick, it is as noisy and violent as anything that the characters got into back in the day but they lack the exquisite style and timing that continues to make the old films hilarious decades after they were produced. Perhaps in an effort to woo older fans to the film’s side, a number of familiar faces from the T&J universe turn up as well, though to little effect. There is one reasonably funny cameo appearance but it is handled so awkwardly that it barely even registers.

I may have gone into “Tom and Jerry” with misgivings but I genuinely wanted to like it—as a fan of their award-winning cartoons (my beloved last cat even received his nickname “Monsieur Pussycat” from one of their shorts), I would have loved to have seen a movie that figured out how to make them work in a feature context in the way that “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” did with its deep bench of characters. Unfortunately, the whole thing is little more than a lumbering mess that fails to demonstrate a sliver of the wit and style on display in even the least effective of their shorts. Technically, the film was produced by Warner Brothers but considering how spectacularly it fails to provide even a modicum of the entertainment value promised in the glitzy promos, it feels as if it should really be credited to ACME instead.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=32840&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/26/21 23:35:40
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User Comments

3/11/21 INORI MINASE Nostalgic garbage. And the main axis is not clear, it is embarrassing to see human performa 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  26-Feb-2021 (PG)
  DVD: 18-May-2021

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Feb-2021




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