Review: 'Tom & Jerry' (2021) Dir. Tim Story
The titular cat and mouse heroes from animation producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera make their millennial big-screen debut for a modern take on their zany antics...
Royal Gate Hotel employee Kayla (Moretz) drifts into the job by chance and is assigned the job of duty wedding planner, working under Events Manager Terence (Peña) and General Manger Dubros (Delaney).
At the same hotel, Tom Cat (Barbera/Blanc/Story) and Jerry Mouse (Barbera/Blanc/Story) clash when Tom is taken on by Kayla to rid the hotel of Jerry who wants to live a life of quiet luxury.
As Kayla plans a big-name wedding at the hotel, Tom and Jerry find they need to learn to work together for the first time in years to help Kayla pull off her job and prove to be something more than just cat and mouse frenemies...
It doesn't take long for classic animation of the yesteryear to receive a big-screen, big-budget makeover to gain new fans and honour their animated foundations. We've seen it with Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs and Garfield: The Movie. What we also are treated to is their interaction with live-action actors and surroundings; these animated animals now are part of the human world, all laid out in the time-honoured tradition of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Chloë Grace Moretz is hotel wedding planner Kayla and Michael Peña is manager Terence, two capable actors who are nothing but bubbly and full of passion for their family-friendly comedy content. Moretz is the key player and probably the perfect counterpart to play off all of the zany comedy and pop culture references without ever taking herself or the material seriously at all.
The actors semi-convincingly work alongside numerous animated animals such as franchise favourites Spike, Toots and, of course, Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse. This is their movie after all, but surprisingly they don't get much of the screentime compared to their human co-stars.
Tom and Jerry are brought to life as perfectly as they have been for decades, and their slapstick violent encounters are nothing but amusing for fans of the source material and provide all the laughs.
When Tom and Jerry are given sporadic minutes across the 1hr 40min runtime to do what they do best, it's great fun. Everything from the classic archival voice/effects work from genre legends William Hanna and Mel Blanc that bring Tom to life don't go unmissed. All the recognisable comical sound effects are present when they beat, bash and slap the other with baseball bats, frying pans, doors, bags...whatever is on hand! It transfers wonderfully well to the bid screen, to the point where their beloved semi-violent antics aren't on show, the human story of wedding planning is just not interesting for a movie about an animated cat and mouse.
The stress of planning a wedding is just threaded in for Tom and Jerry to be part of the chaos, along with the likes of actors Ken Jeong and Rob Delaney who are just there for small laughs. Even when Tom has to start singing (as these modern animations always seem to want to feature) with the voice of US rapper T-Pain, it stars to fall into the predictable and culturally relevant tropes of modern animations that bring in modern society.
The story turns into the predictable (and literal) cat and mouse escapades when Tom and Jerry are ousted from the hotel environment and just get to cause computer enhanced chaos around New York City with Moretz does all she can with flat co-stars and unamusing comedy and scripts that will fail to retain the attention of younger viewers and fans here for our animated animals. The final act becomes very emotion / moral heavy and side-lines the fun for our actors to turn everything around in quite unimaginative and boring ways, something we've seen before and without any of the fun or imagination that could have been used.
There's little creativity or flair in the direction from Tim Story who doesn't seem the obvious choice to helm a comedy like this, and there's nothing that jumps out in a very bland score or set-pieces. Mixing live action and animation works if everything is balanced and blended in equal measure, but with understanding of what you're trying to sell. This blend fails to sell the appeal and comedic fun of Tom and Jerry, and they fall into second place behind their human counterparts with a story it's hard to really care about.
'Tom & Jerry' shines when Tom and Jerry actually get to do what they do best; comical violence and slapstick. The human narrative is just boring and detracts from their fun.
'Tom & Jerry' is a co-production between Warner Animation Group, The Story Company and Turner Entertainment Co.