Tom and Jerry

Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

Tom and Jerry
dir Tim Story
scr Kevin Costello
prd Chris DeFaria
with Chloe Grace Moretz, Michael Pena, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, Pallavi Sharda, Ken Jeong, Jordan Bolger, Patsy Ferran
voices Bobby Cannavale, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Nicky Jam
release US 1.Mar.21,
UK 26.Mar.21
21/US Warners 1h41

pena cannavale howery

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Tom, Moretz and Jerry
Despite a promising visual approach combining live-action with hand-drawn style animation, these iconic cartoon characters are badly let down by a limp script and unambitious direction. Aside from leaving the title characters in the margins, there's very little about this belaboured movie that's either funny or engaging. At least the chaotic, underdeveloped plot moves briskly enough to avoid being boring. And the odd gag elicits a chuckle.
After stealing someone's resume to get a job in a posh New York hotel, Kayla (Moretz) is now overseeing the wedding of celebrities Ben and Preeta (Jost and Sharda). Meanwhile, alley cat Tom is obsessed with catching the cheeky mouse Jerry, who delights in causing serious physical injury. So when Jerry is spotted around the hotel, Kayla hires Tom to catch the mouse. Cue a series of elaborately staged confrontations between the hapless predator and his cunning prey. All while the hotel staff prepares for the wedding of the year amid the escalating chaos.
The film holds to the tradition that Tom and Jerry don't speak, although the animated menagerie of animals around them is unnecessarily chatty. There's also a particularly ill-advised moment when Tom sort-of sings. While some of the cat-and-mouse set-pieces knowingly echo details from the original cartoons, the real-world settings undermine the comedy value of cartoonish hyper-violence. And the choice of jaunty background music and oddly jarring songs further degrades the tone, straining clumsily to be down with the kids.

Director Story encourages the actors to shamelessly overact each scene, and Moretz gamely dives into her thankless role as Tom's cohort, which pits her against the wily Jerry. Even though Kayla is a relentless liar, Moretz manages to make her likeable. By contrast, the pointlessly villainous Pena has little to do as he bears the full force of the predictably destructive slapstick. Delaney's hotel manager is merely oblivious. And the only decent lines are clearly ad-libbed by deadpan experts Jost and Jeung (as a grumpy chef).

Even if there are a few decent ideas, the script is so lazy that the movie's visual approach never gets a chance to work. Each vaguely promising sequence is followed by five scenes that are painfully awkward, including a few bizarrely random cinematic references. And while Story strains to make the film childish, he forgets to make a movie that will actually entertain children. So adults will be insulted by this sloppy attempt to update such classic characters. And the ludicrous final-act sentimentality is the last straw.

cert pg themes, violence 1.Mar.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall