Movie Review: Tom and Jerry

Shall we blame the pandemic for the spate of rehashes that we’re seeing on our screens big and small of late? Yesterday, a friend told me about the reboot of the 1980s TV series, PUNKY BREWSTER, that just came to air. Who asked for that? It was also reported the other day that FRASIER is going to see a reboot. That TV show wrapped up production 17 years ago! I hope he’s still not doing his radio show. And then there’s COMING 2 AMERICA, which arrived on Amazon Prime Video last Friday, 33 years after its progenitor was released in the cinemas. (I’ll review that film later this week.) These are all blatant cash grabs by studios that are looking for low-risk ways to pad their covid-battered bottom lines. With any luck, the pandemic and all that goes with it will soon be behind us and the studios can get back to bringing original material to our screens. In the meantime, we’ve still got to deal with off-brand kitty litter films like TOM AND JERRY.

Those familiar four-legged frenemies are back in a live-action feature written by Kevin Costello (BRIGSBY BEAR) and directed by Tim Story (SHAFT (2019); BARBERSHOP). That combination there should be enough to give you an indication of what this film is like. Tom and Jerry have moved to the Big Apple and are up to their usual antics in no time. Unlike Tom, who is out on the mean streets, Jerry takes up residence in the swish Royal Gate Hotel, a ritzy establishment that boasts an impressive glass-domed lobby that you know will feature in the film’s climax. At the same time, Kayla Forester (Chloë-Grace Moretz, SUSPIRIA; THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST; CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA), a young woman who doesn’t have any marketable skills other than conning people, talks herself into a job as the assistant to the hotel’s anal-retentive event manager, Terence Mendoza (Michael Peña, DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD; the ANT-MAN films; COLLATERAL BEAUTY; THE MARTIAN; AMERICAN HUSTLE). The hotel is about to host high society’s wedding of the year between beautifully rich people Ben (Colin Jost, COMING 2 AMERICA; TV’s SNL) and Preeta (Pahlavi Sherda, LION), who arrive there a few days ahead of their big day with their pet bulldog and feline femme fatale in tow. Of course they do. When news of a mouse’s presence in the hotel reaches general manager Mr. Dubros (Rob Delaney, BOMBSHELL; LAST CHRISTMAS; THE HUSTLE; DEADPOOL 2), Kayla hires Tom to catch Jerry. Chaos, naturally, ensues as the pair wreak havoc on the hotel, putting Kayla’s job in jeopardy and the nuptials in disarray.

I must admit that I was never a fan of the Hanna-Barbera duo. Give me Bugs Bunny any day. But Warner Bros., which absorbed the intellectual property in 1996 when it merged with Turner Broadcasting, saw an opportunity to retread a very warn tire that was sitting in the corner gathering dust and cobwebs. But what may have seemed like a good idea on paper, and one that also offers an opportunity to make a not-too-subtle wink at another WB intellectual property at the same time, turned out to be a minefield of problems, the first one being that, unlike Bugs and friends, Tom and Jerry are non-verbal characters. To get around that minor detail, Kayla is blessed with the ability to understand and communicate with them. Okay, I’ll swallow that one but then here Tom, Jerry, and all the other animals, including a trio of hip pigeons who serve as the story’s observer-commentators, are given the inner city gangsta treatment. I lost count of how many times my jaw fell to the floor. But the biggest issue I have with TOM AND JERRY is that when all the furry pair really do is scheme, chase and mete out pain on each other (with most of the latter being in one direction), the film’s two-legged characters can’t pick up the slack as they are have even less depth than their anthropomorphic co-stars. The writer and director fail to make us want to stick around and watch for more than seven minutes. In the end, TOM AND JERRY just becomes a belaboured exercise that even children will find boring.

TOM AND JERRY opens in our cinemas in Hong Kong on Thursday. In markets that have HBO Max, you can find it streaming there. It’s not quite as bad as CATS but it easily is one of the worst films you’ll see this decade.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, March 5th, 8:30 am HK time!

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