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Tom & Jerry

A cringey and embarrassing reboot of the classic cartoon

It seems like the Warner Brothers family division has given up coming up with original ideas. They seem to be following a formula of taking old IP and modernizing it with what middle-aged executives think is “cool.” This was the case with Scoob! (2020), which opened the possibility of a Hanna-Barbera shared universe. The other famed golden property of Hanna-Barbera is getting its stand-alone film in Tom and Jerry (2021), mixing animation and live-action.

Tom and Jerry takes place in New York City. The titular cat and mouse remain animated and voiceless while they chase and evade each other. Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) is an out of work girl who lies her way to a job at a fancy hotel hosting a celebrity wedding. Kayla’s financial future hinges on her doing a good job, but Tom and Jerry unwittingly decide to take their ‘cat-and-mouse’ game to the hotel.

The film is directed by Tim Story, a frequent go-to for unimaginative studio-fare such as Fantastic Four (2006), Think Like a Man (2012), and Ride Along (2014). Despite being flat in his directing style, Story’s proven many doubters wrong by delivering surprise financial hits. Going into the mix of animation and live-action could have proven to be ground for Story to develop and demonstrate a creative prowess, but his direction remains stale and disappointing.

Tom and Jerry is one of the laziest scripts to be given a big budget in recent years. There is barely the semblance of a plot, and the cartoon action is extremely dull. The humor is nearly always cringey, with actors holding for a pause for inexistent audience laughter. It was very difficult to see likeable actors like Grace Moretz and Michael Peña, deliver such sordid and vapid dialogue. The quality of such a terribly written script was surprising since it was penned by Kevin Costello, who had come up with the original and unpredictable Brigsby Bear (2017). However, it seems that any semblance of an original idea in Costello’s script has been stamped out.

One of the things I was most curious about this adaptation of Tom and Jerry was how the film would deal with the famed violence of the original cartoons. In recent decades violence in young children’s cartoons has become more restricted as creators became more attuned to educational standards of the day. This clashed ironically with how teenagers and young adults were exponentially being bombarded with blood and gore. While cartoons have become more pacific for children, focusing on values instead of cheap laughs, there still have been exceptions. I was horrified with how violent The Secret Life of Pets films were to an extreme extent. This iteration of Tom and Jerry does seem to tone down the horrifying violence of the original cartoons, but still retains a sanitized semblance of it; after all it’s the violence that was the core plot driver for the characters historically. However, like the cartoons the core of this film seems to be centered on such violence and it misses the opportunity to create a shift towards a more values-based approach.

The aspect that I found absolutely insufferable, however, was the attempted modernizations. This occurred in Scoob! as well, where there seemed to be modern references and name-drops with the sole purpose of appearing “trendy” and in-the-know. It is such a desperate plot from clearly older executives at reaching a target demographic that it was frankly embarrassing. In Tom and Jerry we continue to see these attempts with an inexplicable and blatant use of black culture. This is apparent in the film’s music, character behavior, and even voice acting (some not even black actors). This black cultural injection is completely unearned and seems to lean onto an exploitative and worryingly stereotypical degree. It is the kind of “black jokes” or winks that you see and cringe in mid-2000s films, and certainly wouldn’t expect to see in a big-budget 2021 feature. Other attempted modernizations included blatant name-drops of Tik-Tok and other social media platforms and forced references to other lazy and unnecessary Warner Bros. properties like Batman. Tom and Jerry even appeared to be a mocking modern progressive attitudes; poking fun at gender tags, joking about how millennials are lazy, and ridiculing labor equality practices. These ended up being insulting and extremely tone-deaf, clearly trying to appear to be in-on-the-joke, but revealing themselves to be desperate wannabes instead.

In the end, Tom and Jerry is a slog of a film. There is barely a semblance of a story, jokes and action are boring and unimaginative, and the plot reeks of desperation. It is a wasted concept of mixing live action and animation, and another dark step in Warner Brothers’ family content slate.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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