New to rent this week from Warner Bros. Pictures is the part-live-action, part-animated family film, Tom & Jerry. The movie – directed by Tim Story – is the latest feature-length film to star the iconic cartoon duo, and focuses on Tom & Jerry’s adventures in a prestigious Manhattan hotel.
In the movie, Jerry makes a home for himself at the Royal Gate Hotel, a few days before a major celebrity wedding is due to take place. At the same time, a street-wise young woman called Kayla, cons her way into a new job at Royal Gate, all the while hoping that her deception won’t be uncovered.
Keen to impress her new boss, and aware that Jerry has already begun causing a disruption in his new homestead, Kayla recruits Tom to go on a mouse hunt. What follows is various scenes of slapstick with the cat and mouse chasing after one another, all while Kayla is trying her best to ensure the wedding goes ahead as planned.
Tom & Jerry was released in the US back in late February, but it arrives in the UK today – just in time for the half-term Easter holidays. The movie is available to rent from all the major streaming platforms (Amazon, iTunes, etc), and stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Rob Delaney, Ken Jeong, and of course, Tom and Jerry as themselves.
Now I should probably mention that because this movie arrives in the UK a month after it opened in the US, I am aware that this film was not a critical hit in the States. Tom & Jerry has been surrounded by mostly negative reviews since its initial release, so before I even pressed ‘play’ on this movie, I knew it was probably not going to be the greatest 101 minutes of my life.
In truth, this isn’t a particularly good movie. It certainly doesn’t live up to the fun or inventiveness of the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons of yesteryear, and doesn’t serve up anything original. But it isn’t awful and if you happen to have youngsters in your house, then this will provide them with some entertainment.
This is a film which skews towards a younger audience. It doesn’t play on two levels, with plenty of jokes for both adults and kids like a Pixar movie, instead it simply aims for some fun visuals, an easy-to-follow story, and a few sight gags here and there.
In short: Tom & Jerry sits firmly in the same category as Garfield (2004), Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) and The Smurfs (2011). So, if those are the sort of films that you would actively avoid, but you know your children quite like, then you know exactly what you are in for.
Personally, I could tell quite quickly that this wasn’t a movie for me. Sure, it made me chuckle a couple of times, and I was suitably impressed with the animation, but there was nothing in here to hold my attention.
I grew up on Tom & Jerry cartoons and still love them to this day. There is something interesting about the way they were written and constructed that has kept them alive all these years, but this type of storytelling is not present in this movie.
In fact, arguably the weakest aspect of Tom & Jerry is the notion that you could replace the two leads in the picture and the film would largely play out the same way. This is because this isn’t a movie specifically about Tom and Jerry – and it doesn’t even feel like a film that was written with the cat and mouse in mind.
Put Bugs and Daffy in this film, Yogi and Boo-Boo, heck, even Heckle and Jeckle, and with a few minor tweaks, you would get the same result. As such, this isn’t a film for long-time fans of these characters, it is purely a film they have been dropped into, to work alongside the real-life actors.
And speaking of the real-life actors, they all do their best to interact with their animated counterparts, with Chloë Grace Moretz being given the most scenes with Tom and Jerry. Moretz does what she can, but I do wonder why she signed up for this picture.
The same goes for Michael Peña, who surely must have read the script before he signed on? At what point did he think it would be fun to play out the actions of someone picking up animated dog poop or running around a hotel looking for a mouse?
I can only presume that everyone who agreed to do this picture, believed they were making the next Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) or Space Jam (1996). I guess the penny finally dropped when the actors realised the highlights of the movie were scenes featuring Tom and Jerry and not them.
So yes, this isn’t one of the great animated/live-action hybrids, but as previously mentioned, it isn’t one of the worst either. It’s not awful, like The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000), and it doesn’t suck the life out of you, like the recent-ish animated Top Cat movies (2011 & 2015).
Tom & Jerry is simply a missed opportunity to do something different. Warner Bros. has had a great deal of success with a string of straight-to-video Tom & Jerry movies, so I can’t help but feel that the studio would have been better pumping more money into another one of those, rather than blowing the budget on this.
However, it’s colourful, light-hearted, and younger audiences will like it. So, if you find yourself in need of some family entertainment, then this is an option – and that’s probably about as good a recommendation as I can offer.