“Tom and Jerry” (2021) Movie Review

Written by Victor DeBonis

Photo: Warner Bros. Picture

In retrospect, “Tom and Jerry” honestly could’ve been a decent or entertaining film, and I tried my hardest to find the joy from this movie. Setting the first film in a long time with this duo is something that I honestly am surprised didn’t happen earlier, since they entertained others for so many years.

While I found a greater fascination to the Looney Tunes characters as a kid, I did enjoy the “Tom and Jerry” shorts quite well and know family that love them. Also, when I was younger, I actually did love the “Tom and Jerry Kids” show that some of you might’ve forgotten admittedly because five-year-old me admired how cute kitten Tom and Jerry appeared. (On a side note, I also owned a VHS copy of the bonkers 1993 fully-animated movie as a kid and loved it when I was younger. Looking back in retrospective, that film probably wouldn’t hold up in terms of quality, now, but that’s beside the point.) I’ve seen these two represented both well and poorly before, so I was hopeful for a modern film that would try to translate them well enough into contemporary times while still sticking true to what made these characters humorous and impactful as they were in full animation.

As far as sticking to what make Tom and Jerry as characters goes, this film follows the basics rather decently (for the most part) with both of them wanting to maim the other and Jerry having real innocence that’s overshadowed by how vicious he can get when pushed to his limits and Tom wanting to be playful but having an egotistical side to him.

Alas, the big issue with this movie, as demonstrated with other films that center around nostalgic properties in recent times, is that one can easily tell that the studio stuck its nose in the film way more than it should’ve and forced a product that is trying way too hard to be “hip” and on point with what they think that teenagers or children are supposed to be like, thus resulting in something miserable, not very funny, and will easily become dated within a matter of years.

What other idea are we supposed to take away from this film when animated elephants are randomly saying, “Omg!” or “Lol!” or when the hip-hop soundtrack is blaring non-stop, as though the film is trying to shove how “smooth” and modern it is in the audience’s faces without focusing on what it made its central characters so timeless? One scene with Tom playing the piano starts off on a hopeful note in a way that, at first glance, seems as though it’s going to lend more to showing off his character through his skills and, maybe, reflect back on one of those piano-based shorts of his in a clever way. Yet, the potential for such a great scene quickly shrivels up when Tom’s singing voice in this scene is presented in the strange, electronic pop/hip-hop sound that’s dominated so much of the radio in the past five years and only makes this movie more dated through moments, such as these.

Sadly, the slapstick between Tom and Jerry that most know and love doesn’t even happen that often in this movie, and, when it occurs, it’s brief and not too impressive. There’s an exception with one scene coming from inside the hotel, where there’s a longer shot from the camera that follows some admittedly clever and hilarious destruction. Aside from that moment, the heavy smashes and collisions that resulted in great hilarity from the cartoon shorts are missing here, and the comedic slapstick doesn’t feel as humorous as it should. This probably comes from the fact that the slapstick tends to come and go, since Tom and Jerry have to share screen-time with live-action people.

I should state that the idea of combining these two with live-action actors isn’t a bad idea on principle. In fact, a part of me admires the idea of every animal in this film being a 2-D animated creature and the rest of the live-action world accepting this reality without batting an eyelid. That idea is neat. What isn’t neat is that the live-action characters in this movie are either dull or unlikable.

Michael Pena can be very funny and even intimidating in other films, but, here, he’s stuck playing every malicious manager in a suit that you’ve seen before, the type who goes insane when somebody is given a job that, in his opinion, doesn’t deserve it and will resort to extreme measures to make that other person experience a downfall. He tries to make the most of such a tired role, and some of his expressions and reactions to Tom or Jerry are amusing, but it doesn’t amount to much. Chloe Grace Moretz is stuck, too, sometimes lending a hint of charm in her performance and providing legitimately humorous reactions when it comes to the animated duo, but she experiences the issue of playing a character who constantly lies to pretty much everybody in the film and seems so obsessed with trying to help her own goals, even if it means duping others to get to where she wants to be. We all know that she’s going to learn her lesson and try to be a better person in the end, but there’s nothing about her character’s arc that we learn to help us connect with her more or find her more relatable or likable. The script tries bringing up the idea that Moretz’s character came from a small town in a meager attempt to make her come across as more humble, but it doesn’t stick.

Much of the film focuses on a wedding between two wealthy people, where the groom of the film is a stereotypical dumb jock with a decent heart but can’t stick up for himself well, and the bride character is an uninteresting person whose main trait is that she comes from an extremely well-to-do family, including a father that you’ve seen before in countless comedies who just doesn’t approve of who she’s marrying and who the groom has to go to absurd lengths to try to impress.

None of these characters are interesting enough to hold our attention for long, and the audience pretty much knows exactly where every arc for them is going, even if the point to where each character ends up, by the time that the closing credits roll, is rushed and not the least bit earned. When the live-action folks go through events that are bad or are trying to show them the error of their ways, such moments are touched upon for maybe a minute or two in the ways that one would expect without any development, thus leaving a movie that doesn’t feel genuine and is simply trying to grab whatever money it can find from a nostalgic property that has entertained audiences, young and old, for decades.

People, this was just not a good movie. The animation is done very nicely when combined with the live-action setting, and Tom and Jerry and the other creatures move in a believable way with some bold colors to them that stand out greatly. And, all of the actors do what they can for their parts, sometimes pulling off a bit of charm with their reactions to situations during a few moments. Sadly, though, none of these qualities can shine through a mediocre script that doesn’t show any funny or even likable characters and goes in exactly the direction that you think that it’s going to while also shoving how “contemporary” it is at every point and not even giving its iconic, animated duo the attention that they deserve. Even the slapstick humor won’t come across as funny enough to stir laughter from many kids, and there isn’t enough in there to help the movie resonate that much for their own entertainment. This film is too reminiscent of other mediocre family movies that revolve around properties from decades ago, such as the live-action “Smurfs” and “Chipmunks” films, and don’t want to really do much with them or even focus on what made them resonate with younger audiences. Such movies just feel as though a studio manipulated them into existence through forcing these characters into a big city (usually, the Big Apple), throwing some random pop-culture references and flatulence jokes and attempts at being modern, and leaving behind a weak story while running off with the box office dollars that come from them.

This is just a shallow film, where, maybe, some inspiration was trying to turn in a decent product, but, it just leaves me feeling as though I experienced a confusing slam to the head from a cartoon mallet and not in a humorous or memorable way.

Grade: D+

I’m passionate about movies, animation, and writing, in general, and I only want to learn more.

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