CultureHead Magazine

Tom and Jerry
Courtesy of HBO Max
Tom and Jerry
Courtesy of HBO Max

Animation within a real-life setting is such a tricky tightrope to balance on. Yeah, Space Jam is awesome, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit is another winner, but you got films like Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked lurking around the corner waiting to break your kneecaps with a baseball bat. I don’t think Tom & Jerry is as bad as Alvin and The Chipmunks, but it’s not that great either. You and I are watching this movie for the same reason anyone else would be:  Nostalgia. We all loved the slapstick shorts between this Cat and Mouse duo growing up, and that would be enough reason to sit through Director Tim Story’s Tom & Jerry

Tim Story himself plays a pigeon who introduces the movie with A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I kick it?”. For some reason, Tom and Jerry are in New York at the same time. We have Kayla (Chloë Moretz Grace), who is this ‘cool’ New Yorker trying to make ends meet making deliveries. Tom is playing out this blind pianist gimmick in Central Park and Jerry, who is in the city looking for a new place to rent, interrupts him, which leads to their first encounter. To put it bluntly, the wham, pows, and smacks that you remember don’t translate as well in real life. It all has no weight. They cause some trouble, Tom runs into Kayla, making her lose her deliveries, and their connection is made. The big issue is this movie really isn’t a Tom and Jerry story. It’s a story about Kayla and her struggles with employment and honesty. She just lost her delivery job thanks to Tom, which leads her to this fancy hotel that doesn’t exist, the Royal Gate Hotel. The event manager Terrence (Michael Pena) and general manager Henry Dubos (Rob Delaney) are hiring extra staff because they are hosting a celebrity wedding between Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) and Ben (Colin Jost). Kayla schemes her way to a position despite being unqualified, and coincidentally, Jerry finds the hotel and thinks it’s the perfect place for his new home.

The movie introduces the celebrity couple who bring Spike the Bulldog and Toots the Cat, and Jerry steals Preeta’s huge engagement ring to use as a chandelier in his room. Jerry has always been a selfish little mouse, and I’m not surprised. Tom is depressed, but since this is a family movie, we don’t get that dark humor where we would see he’d be drinking himself into a coma and thinking about ending it all. On the other hand, Jerry is living it up, and after causing trouble in the hotel kitchen, Kayla is tasked to take him out. Realizing she is out of her league, she seeks out Tom. So Tom joins the staff, and he gets to wear a cute bellhop hat that I greatly enjoyed. 

Tom & Jerry: Nostalgia Ain't Enough CultureHead Magazine
Courtesy of HBO Max

To further emphasize how much this movie isn’t about Tom and Jerry, Preeta reaches out to Kayla about recovering her missing ring. She goes into great detail about how she and her husband have to hold up appearances no matter what, and it’s made their communication difficult. Ben wants to keep making their wedding bigger, and Preeta doesn’t have the nerve to say no to him. You really don’t care about this, and you just wait between the many live-action scenes until you get to see the mouse and cat go at it again. The cat and mouse do get to go at it repeatedly, and at times it’s entertaining and chaotic. However, it’s all incredibly tamed compared to what you have seen growing up with the show. 

All the live actors in this film are definitely hamming it up aside from Colin Jost, who seemed like he completely checked out for this role. Pena, an incredibly gifted and funny actor, is cast as the main antagonist, making it a clear miscast. Delaney is barely used aside from being a cluelessly jovial manager who sees no wrong in Kayla’s many failures. Chloë Moretz Grace is a great actress, but this role has her over exaggerating many stale jokes. Ken Jeong is in this film, and I have no idea why his role is so incredibly minor. As for the animation, it’s well done, and the character looks really great, and it was a good call to keep them 2D as opposed to going 3D. There were many moments where they decided to go with 2D animations instead of real-life props, which helps give Tom and Jerry a chance to fit in with the rest of the cast and settings. As you can expect, the wedding goes horribly wrong. Tom and Jerry are mostly to blame. And because Kayla is the main character in this film, she really ends up being the one to fix it. However, there is nothing that can really fix the misfires with this film. Nostalgia ain’t enough to save this film, but at least they learned a lesson from the duo’s last shot at the big screen and kept them quiet.

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