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Film Review Friday: Tom and Jerry (2021)

by Emily Nagle

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

I was never super into Tom and Jerry as a kid, but I was familiar with them and their slapstick antics. With Cartoon Network being one of my go-to channels for years, it was one of those shows I’d sometimes watch in the mornings while eating breakfast, or if I was out sick from school.

When I watched the trailer for the new Tom and Jerry movie, I was initially a little skeeved out by the lineless, three-dimensional visual style of the iconic cat-and-mouse rivals. I understand they were trying to do something a little different from their usual 2D appearance, but it reminded me more of one of those AR Snapchat filters than animation for a feature film. Regardless, I decided to give it a shot and see how it was, since I’ve always admired animation. There’s so many different ways to do it, from CGI to clay to hand-drawn mediums. Based on the vibe you’re going for, there’s often multiple approaches that can be taken – you can go for a darker, creepier style, or you could create something on the bouncier, more colorful side based on what type of story you want to tell. There’s nothing wrong with trying out a different approach.

In the case of Tom and Jerry, the film was a combination of live-action and animation, with the plot being set in New York City and all the animals, even fish and birds, being animated with CGI. The animation style they chose felt out of place set against the real-life backdrop of New York City, and it was too brightly colored. The characters may have looked better if they had been portrayed a more realistic, textured style, like the animation styles used in Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog. Pikachu and Sonic started out as 2D characters, but the way they appeared in those movies worked because they fit the environment they were in. Since they’re supposed to be furry animals, their 3D designs were made to look fluffy, and almost like you could reach through the screen and touch them. With Tom and Jerry, however, the animated creatures look like somebody placed them into the scene from a completely different film. They don’t blend in at all with their environment.

Among this colorful cast of animals is a group of pigeons (all voiced by director Tim Story) – credited as the “Pigeon Announcers” – who don’t contribute anything to the film other than performing a rap at the start of the movie and telling the audience what’s going on, even when it’s clear what’s happening. When it’s finally the day of the wedding, they fly up to the camera and explain that to the viewer, even though we had spent the last 20 minutes watching Kayla meet with the bride and groom to get everything ready for the big day.

The human characters in this film aren’t much better. The people in it are flat and boring, and have no personality. The main human character is young, ambitious Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz), who talks her way into a job working an upscale, elaborate wedding at the swankiest hotel in the city by using somebody else’s resume. She walks into the hotel and scares a woman who’s applying for a job out of it, and then hands in that woman’s resume to the hotel staff, passing it off as her own and lying that she has all this experience that she doesn’t actually have. The movie delves a little bit into the bride and the groom’s dynamic, but it doesn’t really go that deep. Ben (Colin Jost) has visions of a big wedding, with the couple riding into the room on British-accented elephants, but bride-to-be Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) doesn’t see why it’s necessary for the couple to have all these things at their wedding, and just wants Ben to listen to what she wants. Why doesn’t she just talk to Ben? Who knows. We don’t really get to see much about the couple’s relationship, other than the fact that they don’t communicate about what they want. They don’t even open up to each other until the end.

So, where do Tom and Jerry come in? Even though the film is titled “Tom and Jerry,” it’s actually not even really about them. The two are more like side characters, as opposed to the stars. All they do in the movie is cause chaos by destroying the hotel and the wedding, as well as blowing Kayla’s cover, causing her to get fired from the job she never deserved in the first place. The slapstick humor that they’re known for doesn’t even last for half the movie. A teaser from last year shows us that they’ve left their home for some reason, but this is cut from the final film, so the audience is left wondering why Tom and Jerry are wandering around the city. What happened that made them end up here? Tom lives on the street making money by playing piano, while Jerry has a luxurious home living inside the walls of the hotel. When the kitchen staff (the head of them being played by Ken Jeong) discovers him, Kayla takes on the task of discreetly catching and getting rid of the mouse, so as to not ruin the hotel’s reputation or disrupt the wedding. Meanwhile, Tom is on the street and notices Jerry through a window, and pursues him, wrecking the whole hotel room. Kayla happens to be passing by and checks the room after hearing the commotion, and joins forces with Tom to get Jerry out of the hotel, reigniting the cat and mouse’s 80-year rivalry.

The jokes in this movie aren’t funny, either. I found myself cringing multiple times throughout the 101-minute film. A lot of the jokes were awkwardly delivered, or they just weren’t clever at all. One that stood out to me was when the couple first arrives at the hotel, and their dog Spike lashes out when he sees Jerry, to which Ben says, “I’m sorry, he’s a little animated.”

The film as a whole was disappointing and I didn’t find it to have any redeeming qualities. It didn’t have much in common with the traditional animated Tom & Jerry shorts, as it was focused more on Kayla and the wedding than on Tom and Jerry.

Tom and Jerry is being distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, and is available now in theaters, or free on HBO Max for the next month.