Apologies if the Tom & Jerry live-action/animation hybrid movie directed by Tim Story does’t meet your expectations. The Coen Brothers weren’t available. But what the film lacks in class, it more than makes up for with a breakneck pace, bickering that outdoes anything that you saw in Godzilla vs Kong, and a surprise Bollywood-themed wedding.
Utilising the same filmmaking style as Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Tom & Jerry is an ideal layup for this summer’s Space Jam: A New Legacy — another film targeted not so much towards children as their millennial parents.
Which is perhaps one of Tom & Jerry’s bigger problems. It doesn’t have a clear audience in mind. Children, for instance, will likely have no idea who these characters are, having grown up on Tik-Tok and Frozen. And it might be too juvenile for everyone else.
Gone are some of the most controversial aspects of the cartoons — the sadistic spirit, the jaw-dropping violence, and the casual racism. This is a Tom & Jerry movie that not only reboots the franchise, but also subverts the very essence of these characters by suggesting that a ceasefire might be the best way forward.
It would be a bit of a stretch to draw parallels between Tom & Jerry and the Israel-Palestine conflict — not that another cartoon movie hasn’t done this before, *cough* Sausage Party *cough* — but there are some rather funny jokes here that adults will appreciate. Take Jerry’s introduction scene, for instance. We see him being taken around town on a house-hunt by a sketchy real-estate agent; two rats staking claims on abandoned cars and crevices under public property — a nod, perhaps, to New York City’s vermin problem.
Tom, meanwhile, is running a grift in Central Park, pretending to be a blind pianist. Their paths collide and, as they say, hilarity ensues.
How radical would it have been to restrict the movie to just cat-and-mouse shenanigans, but alas, director Tim Story went and populated it with an assortment of mildly interesting humans, led by Chloe Grace Moretz’s con artist Kayla. The movie would much rather you think of her as a ‘street-smart go-getter’, but don’t fall for it. Kayla is a meany.
After scamming her way into an event-management job at a fancy five-star hotel, she learns that a weekend wedding featuring Indian royalty might be in jeopardy because of Jerry, who has moved into one of the spare rooms. So she hires a down-on-his-luck Tom to help track him down. The movie moves from set-piece to set-piece, with talented comedic actors such as Michael Pena, Rob Delaney, and Ken Jeong occasionally passing by. They don’t have much to do, besides show up and collect a paycheque.
Again, because the Coen Brothers’ calendars were too packed for them to do this, Roger Deakins had to pull out as well. Which means that Tom & Jerry isn’t going to be up for the cinematography Oscar this year. Despite some impressive visual effects, it’s unpardonably flat to look at; a sensation that is heightened by Tim Story’s inability to hide the fact that virtually the entire movie, including the climactic Bollywood wedding sequence, has been shot on a poorly-lit soundstage.
Without traditional filmmaking tools to set the tone, he relies on unrelenting pop-culture references, pop songs and product placement that betrays the capitalistic soul of this enterprise. But all this is very easy to ignore, especially for children who’ve developed an appetite for films such as this. It’s also very easy to digest — whether or not it does lasting damage to your insides is another matter.
Tom & Jerry
Director – Tim Story
Cast – Chloe Grace Moretz, Michael Pena, Rob Delaney, Ken Jeong, Colin Jost, Pallavi Sharda