April 18, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

‘Tom & Jerry’ review: Cat and mouse are underutilized

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

If there is one thing that can be said about “Tom & Jerry,” it’s that the beloved cat and mouse spend most of their time in the movie doing what they do best: playing a hyper-destructive game of cat-and-mouse. But that really isn’t enough to justify taking this nostalgia bait.

To be fair, having non-verbal characters best known for animated shorts carry a 101-minute movie is a difficult ask. Instead, Warner Bros. Pictures’ live-action/animation hybrid, out now in theaters and HBO Max, sees William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s classic cartoon rivals plopped into modern-day New York for an adventure that mostly revolves around humans played by Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Rob Delaney, Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda.

Directed by Tim Story from a script by Kevin Costello, “Tom & Jerry” is set in a version of the world where all animals — from pets to potential ingredients to exhibits in a museum — are cartoons. That they are portrayed in a more classical 2-D animated look instead of the 3DCG approach taken by other recent live-action/animation hybrids does add to its charm.

The movie starts with Tom and Jerry trying to make new starts in the city. The pair quickly cross paths in a park when Jerry tries to crash Tom’s attempt at making some quick cash as a street performer, establishing their antagonistic relationship. Their ensuing high jinks also lead to innocent bystander Kayla (Moretz) losing her job, setting up the main human storyline.

The majority of the subsequent action is set within a swanky hotel where Kayla fibs her way into getting hired for a job for which she is not quite qualified as it staffs up in anticipation of the upcoming wedding of social media “it” couple Preeta (Sharda) and Ben (Jost). Though Kayla charms the manager (Delaney) to get the position, the event manager Terence (Peña) dislikes her from the start.

The human storyline just doesn’t deliver. It’s hard to figure out what character you are meant to root for because the movie doesn’t give the audience enough to really understand their motivations. It’s a credit to the actors that they are not all completely unlikeable. That said, Delaney and Patsy Ferran, who plays the quirky bellhop Joy, are among the highlights.

Tom and Jerry, each interested in making the fancy hotel their home, unfortunately become secondary to Kayla’s quest to prove she can handle the job. The moments when neither are around particularly drag and “Tom & Jerry” doesn’t quite land its message about the difficulty of being a young adult hitting the job market in the current gig economy.

The slapstick physical comedy does provide some laughs, and coupled with the toilet humor “Tom & Jerry” will likely appeal to some members of the family audience.

Still, if you’re in a mood for this flavor of cartoon violence, you’re better off hunting down the classic shorts or episodes of Tom and Jerry’s past TV shows.

‘Tom & Jerry’

Rated: PG, for cartoon violence, rude humor and brief language

Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

Playing: Paramount Drive-in, Paramount; Regency the Plant Drive-in, Van Nuys; Mission Tiki Drive-in, Montclair; in general release where theaters are open; also on HBO Max