“Ride Along” director Tim Story brings the popular cartoon enemies to life TOM & JERRY a live-action adventure in which the trick four-legged friends can really let off steam. The result is entertaining, even if the title characters occasionally seem like foreign bodies in their own film. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Tom & Jerry (UK/FR/DE/USA 2021)
One day before the most magnificent wedding of the century is to take place there, the cheeky mouse Jerry moves into the most elegant hotel in New York. The desperate wedding planner Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) has no choice but to hire Tom the cat to get rid of the uninvited guest. The ensuing game of cat and mouse threatens to destroy her career, the wedding and possibly the hotel itself. But an even bigger problem soon arises: a devilishly ambitious employee who conspires against all three…
In fast-moving pop culture, only very few phenomena are able to remain constant in the audience’s perception over a longer period of time. One of them is the duo of Tom the cat and Jerry the house mouse, who were once known as the protagonists of their own TV cartoons. The furry enemies have been delighting generation after generation of comedy lovers for over 70 years (!). “Tom & Jerry” began in 1940 as an animated series consisting of 161 short films. This was followed by two more in the 1960s, two “Tom & Jerry Shows” from 1975 to 1982 and a prequel format closely based on the original series called “Tom & Jerry Kids”, which depicts the two main characters as children. In addition to various film adaptations, of which “Tom & Jerry – The Film”, released in 1993, was the only one to receive a theatrical release, there has been a new edition of the “Tom & Jerry Show” since 2014, which to date consists of 195 episodes in five seasons and in in which the two main characters make life difficult for each other in eleven-minute sketches. The concept of the literal game of cat and mouse, in which as much as possible breaks and the two arch-enemies drive each other crazy in the best slapstick style because each feels superior to the other, has never been big in many decades changed. Not even for their new movie, even though director Tim Story did (“Ride Along”) the two trick heroes were treated to a live-action film setting for the first time.
Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) doesn’t really know how she got this job…
Most “Tom & Jerry” sketches last around ten minutes. Some of the films released directly for the home cinema (either as a television broadcast or as a direct-to-DVD title), such as “The Magic Ring” or “Pirates on a Treasure Hunt”, can cost a good hour. At 84 minutes, however, Phil Roman’s “Tom & Jerry – The Movie” was the longest coherent story to date from the cosmos of feuding four-legged friends; a record that Tim Story is now setting with his 101-minute long feature film reinterpretation “Tom & Jerry”. Since the “Tom & Jerry” sketches developed their appeal primarily through the extremely high tempo, the accompanying slapstick fire and the immense creativity, the doubts are justified in view of a classic feature film length: a format like “Tom & Jerry “ a plot of over an hour and a half? The answer is: no. And that’s why screenwriter Kevin Costello (“The Adventures of Brigsby Bear”) a lush framework knitted around the two cartoon cult characters. At the center of the film is Chloë Grace Moretz (“If I stay”) played Kayla, who, to her own astonishment, manages to get the job of hotel manager and temporary wedding planner and in the process is drawn into the guerrilla war between Tom and Jerry.
“Does a format like “Tom & Jerry” have a plot of over an hour and a half? The answer is: no. And that’s why screenwriter Kevin Costello crafted a lavish framework around the two iconic cartoon characters.”
The two have now ended up in New York and only a few moments pass in “Tom & Jerry” before the two meet there and immediately begin their familiar attacks. The integration into the live-action film environment was only moderately successful. Although all the animated animals (everything non-human in this film is represented by cartoon characters, the bipeds are real) have a nostalgic comic charm, the drawn characters noticeably act in a different dimension than their real environment. This can – as in “Wrong Game with Roger Rabbit” or “Mary Poppins” – also develop its own visual appeal. But the trick animals here lack color saturation and contrast, which means they consistently look overlit. As a result, the interaction between them and the human figures has no noticeable feel whatsoever. However, that doesn’t mean that Moretz, Michael Peña and their colleagues don’t have noticeable fun with their roles – the main plus point that compensates for the major omission of a “Tom & Jerry” film, namely not the two title heroes at the center the narrative, but completely different characters. The “If I Stay” actress enthusiastically embodies a clumsy braggart who is already talking head and shoulders during her interview at the hotel and uses the blistering pace of the “Tom & Jerry” sketches as an opportunity to create an incredibly (and incredibly likeable) Putting energy into their performance. Meanwhile, “Ant-Man” star Michael Peña plays the counterpart who always tries to maintain composure, but who cannot avert the escalation of events even with iron discipline. Whenever chaos collides with Peña’s desire for order, “Tom & Jerry” creates highly amusing moments; Especially because Chloë Grace Moretz’s Kayla is part of the chaos herself. And of course Tom and Jerry, which Tim Story repeatedly places in the middle of the action like a sketch.
Hotel manager Terence (Michael Peña) and cat Tom have a plan…
In its weakest moments, “Tom & Jerry” gives the impression of being the result of two completely separate stories: On the one hand, Tim Story tells of a splendid wedding in a luxury hotel that gets out of hand, and on the other hand, the tried and tested one War between Tom and Jerry. The excessive slapstick escapades are by no means neglected here, sometimes lasting several minutes without advancing the story. If one were to wish harm on these scenes, one could get the impression that this is just filler material that only exists to give the “a huge wedding goes wrong” plot a well-known brand and thereby promote it better can. Nevertheless, the Tom and Jerry scenes make up such a large portion of the film that one could just as easily interpret it the other way around. Undoubtedly, the symbiosis of comic and live-action film is only moderately successful here; The two individual parts are too recognizable as such, and the end result feels too unified. And yet each part is fun in its own right, as not only does the joy of playing of the human actors predominate, but also the story (which is admittedly relatively low in surprises due to the genre) is convincing with its high pace and the Tom and Jerry scenes with their love for Detail and especially about the origins.
“On the one hand, Tim Story tells of a splendid wedding in a luxury hotel that gets out of hand, and on the other hand, of the tried-and-tested guerrilla war between Tom and Jerry. The excessive slapstick escapades are by no means neglected here, sometimes lasting several minutes without advancing the story at all.”
“Tom & Jerry” is the first film from the universe that was made without creative input from the creators after the deaths of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Nevertheless, fans don’t have to miss out on the iconic movements and sounds of their four-legged heroes. With archival footage of all the original screams from the cartoons from 1942 to 1957, Tom and Jerry’s capers maintain their timelessness – and prove they’re still hilarious. Even if the lovers of the two will certainly differ in the end because the tomcat and the mouse have to give up their enmity for the first time and really work together…
Conclusion: The new feature film from the “Tom & Jerry” universe scores with an entertaining comedy plot and highly committed actors on the one hand, as well as fast-paced Tom and Jerry slapstick on the other. The two don’t really come together. Still, the film as a whole is fun.
“Tom & Jerry” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 12, 2021.