Tom and Jerry REVIEW – A Dated Reboot

Your time might be better served with the pair's antics in the original cartoon.

Tom and Jerry 2021
Tom and Jerry

After a failed theatrical adaptation in 1992 and a slew of bad direct-to-video movies, Tom and Jerry attempt to return to the big screen in a hybrid comedy mixing live-action hijinks with classic animation. The end result is as dated as you’d expect from a movie that was initially supposed to come out in 2009 and spent many years in development hell. Yet, its story is relatively simple: after Kayla Forester (Chloë Grace Moretz) fakes a job application, she is hired to work at the Royal Gate Hotel for the biggest wedding of the year.

However, Jerry has installed himself in the hotel, and a mouse infestation could cause significant problems, not only for the Royal Gate but for the wedding itself. Kayla then hires Tom to get rid of Jerry and the usual slapstick ensues, without any form of creativity and originality behind the camera.

The opening scene, where animated pigeons superimpose themselves over establishing New York City shots, already feels exceptionally uninspired. There is nothing new, original or fresh presented to the audience with its hybrid concept. This concept has already been exploited in better movies that used the hybrid approach brilliantly, such as Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Joe Pytka’s Space Jam and, more recently, Joe Dante’s Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

These films had a point in mixing live-action and animation, and not just for cheap laughs. The live-action characters form a relationship with the animated protagonists, who have their own distinct personalities. Since Tom and Jerry cannot talk, it’s challenging for the live-action characters to form a personal relationship with the animated ones. Most of the story involving the wedding and Kayla’s job feels wholly detached from Tom and Jerry’s. There’s no correlation between the two–the wedding story is only there for an extended gag near the end involving animated elephants and tigers, containing some of the most unimaginative slapstick I’ve seen in a long time.

Since there’s no attachment to the human characters with the animated ones, most of the comedy falls pretty flat on its face. The only time the comedic situations ever worked was during sequences where Tom and Jerry were entirely alone, and even then it’s lackluster. We’ve all seen most of this comedy done before, in previous Tom & Jerry films. One gag, in particular, involving a piano, is taken directly from The Cat Concerto without ever really hiding its inspiration.

Of course, it’s okay for a re-adaptation of the source material to reference its past. However, its references are blatantly obvious, which makes the reimagining feel devoid of any creativity. Tom & Jerry seems to only work in an animated setting. Still, even the animated films have already been overdone, and every situation imaginable with the characters has been done time and again in their direct-to-video animated films.

It also doesn’t help that most of the live-action performances are devoid of any charm and humor. Chloë Grace Moretz does her best at juggling such a tedious script as well as highly caricatured supporting characters like Rob Delaney acting like the clueless boss, Ken Jeong as the loud-mouthed chef who believes he’s an artist, and Michael Peña playing the stereotypical antagonist who thinks Kayla will replace him and sets a plan to embarrass her and Tom for badly doing their jobs.

Peña’s lines are the most embarrassing, written by someone who doesn’t properly understand the trends children and tweens are exposed to. Jokingly mixing Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to “Insta-book-face and Ticky Tock” doesn’t automatically make it hilarious for children (or anyone really). It only adds to how poorly written and embarrassingly cringeworthy Kevin Costello’s screenplay is.

There was no reason for Tim Story’s reimagination of Tom & Jerry to exist, save to make money at the box office. But now that we’re in a pandemic, most of the money that went into making this abomination will go down the drain since most of its audience will prefer to watch it at home on HBO Max or video-on-demand. Whichever way you’re planning to see this, cancel your plans and watch William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s Tom & Jerry shorts instead. A much better way to spend your time during these uncertain times we live in.

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Tom and Jerry 2021
With very little imagination and creativity brought to the table, creating a terribly detached live-action/animation hybrid story, Tom & Jerry is one reboot that should’ve stayed in perpetual development hell.