Tom and Jerry: The Movie

1992

What you just witnessed was a sample of one of the most beloved comedy duos of all time, right next to Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera during the golden age of animation, Tom and Jerry has remained one of the cornerstones of slapstick humor with the animation showcasing the pain characters go through when they’re struck with a hammer or a bowling ball. However, once theatrical shorts became extinct, they were passed around to other artists such as Gene Deitch and Chuck Jones. Then in the 90’s when animation was starting to be taken seriously, Tom and Jerry were given their own animated movie. Considering how many cartoons at the time were turned into live-action features such as The Flintstones, Dennis the Menace, Mr. Magoo, and Dudley Do-Right, this should’ve been an easy adaptation to open the animated floodgates for future cartoon adaptations. Unfortunately, Tom and Jerry: The Movie has been shunned by both critics and fans for a number of reasons, but after years of shelling out direct-to-home-media titles, how does it compare now?

The Gene Deitch collection isn’t fondly remembered by fans for it’s low quality animation and its off target physical humor.
Though not as popular as the Hanna-Barbera era, Chuck Jones’ take has been more positively received.

The plot of Tom and Jerry: The Movie leapfrogs from one goal to another as the cat and mouse are rendered homeless when the owners move away. After spending a night on the streets, the two are taken in by an orphan girl (Anndi McAfee) living under her aunt’s roof. Little does she know that her father (Ed Gilbert) is alive and her aunt and lawyer (Charlotte Rae and Tony Jay) are planning to steal her inheritance.

At first, the plot fits the formula to a tee, utilizing body gestures and expressive reactions to tell a story. But once they come across the talking dog Pugsy and his flea companion Frankie (Ed Gilbert and David Lander) the quality starts to decline. In fact, all the film’s problems can be summed up in the song Friends to the End:

Tom and Jerry is the epidemy of visual storytelling with camera work and non-verbal communication speaking to the audience. By having them talk throughout the movie, it loses half the charm of the cartoons. As much as Richard Kind and Dana Hill try, they feel miscast as the duo when they had gruffer inflections in the few moments they did talk in the shorts. To its credit, everyone else is suitable for the roles they have been cast in such as the late Tony Jay, Rip Taylor, and Howard Morris.

Here’s how they should sound.

The song itself is adequate with Pugsy and Frankie headlining, but taking in Tom and Jerry’s history when it’s their turn to chime in, it feels unnatural and out of character. Speaking of the songs, a majority of them are padding since all animated films at the time were expected to be musicals following the success of The Little Mermaid. Unlike that renaissance masterpiece, these songs don’t even come close to Menken and Ashman’s work because they barely develop the story or characters. Although, without the lyrics, the music is catchy and memorable thanks to its composer, Henry Mancini, who you may recognize as the genius behind The Pink Panther theme. The animation itself is eye pleasing to warrant a theatrical release with exaggerated designs and consistent fluidity. Unfortunately, the slapstick has no sense of timing or knowledge on how to properly show a character’s pain. To make matters worse, the spotlight is yanked away from the duo twenty minutes in by human characters, demoting Tom and Jerry to supporting roles, and in the process sealing the fate of all cartoon adaptations for the next thirty years. It’s incredibly ironic that an animated film would become the foundation of family entertainment that fails to understand the appeal of legacy characters when bringing them to the big screen.

Composer Henry Mancini

Tom and Jerry: The Movie is a golden opportunity that wasted what live-action cartoon adaptations would never take for granted. The first ten minutes are the best part with eye pleasing animation, a jazzy score by Henry Mancini, and wacky characters that work well on their own. But everything else goes against what made Tom and Jerry icons alongside Popeye and Bugs Bunny. Making them talk removes the comedic visual story-telling, the slapstick has no sense of timing, the songs don’t progress the plot nor the characters, and the leads are eventually reduced to supporting roles in their own movie. It’s only other existence has made way for another meme, but other than that its the textbook definition of how NOT to adapt a cartoon to film. Sure, it’s not the worst animated feature, but it’s definitely not the cat and mouse we all love.

Pros: First ten minutes, Henry Mancini’s Score, Eye Pleasing Animation

Cons: miscast voice acting, padding songs, poor slapstick, upstaging human characters

5/10

These guys put it best.

2021

Following the failure of the 1992 animated feature, the cat and mouse were relegated to direct-to-home media crossovers with Sherlock Holmes, The Wizard of Oz, and most infamously, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

For years, Warner Brothers has been planning a live-action CGI hybrid of one of Hanna-Barbera’s biggest properties. Only this time their theatrical run has been cut short by a certain “global event” that has far outstayed its welcome. Which is why HBO Max has made all their theatrically released content available the same day it releases in theaters (whatever few are open).

No folks, your eyes don’t deceive you. That’s an animated cat and mouse suffering cartoon concussions in a reality that doesn’t have the world building of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Or in this case, the new Tom and Jerry movie: a live-action animated hybrid that sees the duo go their separate ways in Manhattan, New York. Too bad old habits never die as Jerry takes up residence in a fancy hotel where the entire staff is planning for the wedding of the century between Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda). When new wedding planner Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) hires Tom to take care of their mouse problem, it’s back to tradition as the two bring their rivalry to a new location that could level the entire hotel.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Famous cartoons travels to New York where they help a real human being overcome their life problems. That describes every live-action cartoon adaptation in the past two decades: Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Smurfs, Underdog, and Fat Albert. It’s a formula that Hollywood has recycled for years because every generation has their nostalgic properties that have always wanted to visit the big apple. At least that’s what the money says given how much box-office these movies generate. Directed by Tim Story (Barbershop, Ride Along, Fantastic Four, Shaft), this runs the gambit of having uninteresting human characters, with the exception being Ken Jeon as a neurotic chef. Chloe Grace Moretz gives it everything she’s got, but the messy script drags out the non-stop verbal comedy to a tedium. Other actors like Michael Pena are miscast as the quasi-villain after proving to be a stand out comic relief in the Ant-Man movies. Speaking of antagonistic, Jerry is usually the sympathetic half of the duo in the cartoons. But in the movie, he might as well be the villain in how he destroys Tom’s attempts at making a living as a musician before taking one step further every ten minutes. On the other hand, the couple has some funny moments involving an absent minded groom and a sympathetic bride that wants something smaller for a change.

What’s the difference?

However, when all is said and done, the animation saves the feature since it has the decency to not subject its viewers to an uncanny realistic cat and mouse. It also has a better sense of timing compared to 1992’s outing with all the violence hitting the right notes. In fact, seeing these animals bring cartoon logic to the real world is the whole appeal of this experiment such as when the classic cartoon dust cloud escalates the more it swallows everything in its path. Is it worthy of a theatrical release? Not really. It doesn’t have the shading nor the real world interactions that would put them on the same level as Who Framed Roger Rabbit. But when it focuses on Tom and Jerry’s rivalry, it’s entertaining even at the worst moments.

The best human character.

Tom and Jerry: The Movie checks off everything in a common live-action film based on a cartoon: New York, generic human characters, a sloppy script, and stilted acting. However, it’s probably the best Tom and Jerry movie society will get thanks to its animation literally bringing cartoon logic to the real world with its trademark slapstick. That’s right, a generic 2000’s hybrid is of better quality than a generic 90’s animated movie. Much like the Looney Tunes, it’s difficult taking animated shorts and stretching them into an hour and a half. Especially when they rely on situations and actions like Tom and Jerry do. Judging by the past decade of experimentation, it’s safe to assume that these two don’t belong in movies because their material is difficult to stretch without additional features overshadowing their presence. If you’re looking for the traditional Tom and Jerry antics, there’s enough to go around if you subscribe to HBO Max. But if the human characters are too much to stomach, both the original and new cartoons are available on the same platform. Either way, it’ll at least spare you of any other cringe-worthy songs about how two of the biggest cartoon rivals in history should be friends.

Pros: Traditional slapstick, loyal animation, cartoon logic, Ken Jeong, surprising jokes

Cons: Generic human characters, sloppy script, miscast roles, stilted acting, corporate rapping

6.5/10

What did you think of Tom and Jerry: The Movie? Which film do you prefer? What is your favorite Tom and Jerry short? Whatever your thoughts are, comment and discuss with others.

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