Tom and Jerry (2021) poster

Tom and Jerry (2021)


USA. 2021.


Director – Tim Story, Screenplay – Kevin Costello, Producer – Chris DeFaria, Photography – Alan Stewart, Music – Christopher Lennertz, Visual Effects Supervisor – Frazer Churchill, Visual Effects – Framestore (Supervisors – Mark Curtis & Andy Kind), Animation Supervisor – Michal Eames, Special Effects Supervisor – Richard Van Den Bergh, Production Design – James Hambridge. Production Company – Warner Brothers.


Chloe Grace Moretz (Kayla Forester), Michael Peña (Terence Mendoza), Rob Delaney (Henry Dubros), Jordan Bolger (Cameron), Pellavi Sharda (Preeta Mehta), Colin Jost (Ben), Ken Jeong (Chef Jackie), Daniel Abegboyea (Gavin), Patsy Ferran (Joy), Camilla Arfwedson (Linda Perrybottom)


Bobby Cannavale (Spike), Nicky Jam (Butch), Lil Rel Howery (Angel/Devil Tom), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Real Estate Rat), Tim Story (Pigeon Announcer)


The cat Tom arrives in New York City and tries to make money as a piano player but almost immediately comes into conflict with the mouse Jerry who upstages him. Kayla Forester is in need of a job. She manages to finagle her way into an interview at the upmarket Royal Gate Hotel using an appropriated resume. This gets her a temporary position as assistant to events manager Terence Mendoza as he organises the upcoming celebrity wedding of Ben and Preeta. Jerry meanwhile creates himself a miniature room in the wall of the hotel using items stolen from Preeta’s luggage. When Jerry is spotted, Kayla is given the job of getting rid of him. She persuades management to make Tom a member of staff in order to hunt Jerry. However, the chaos caused by Tom and Jerry’s hunt for each other wreaks havoc around the hotel.

Tom and Jerry are characters featured in a series of cartoons between 1940 and 1958. The cartoons always centered around Tom, a housecat, and his attempts to catch Jerry, a mouse that always seems able to outwit him, and the frenetic, often violent situations as Tom pursued Jerry through various scenarios. The cartoons were the creation of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera who started out working across the desk from one another at the MGM animation studio. In fact, the first Tom and Jerry short film Puss Gets the Boot (1940), was the first collaboration between the two who formed a lifelong partnership. Hanna and Barbera made 141 Tom and Jerry shorts up until 1958 when the studio decided theatrically released cartoons were no longer profitable and stopped production. Subsequent to that, Hanna and Barbera left MGM and formed their own company where they moved into television, producing numerous cartoons shows that included the classic likes of The Flintstones (1960-6), Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1969-70), among others. There have been several Tom and Jerry revivals since, including seven different tv shows, one theatrical feature film Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992) and a whole series of animated dvd releases including the bizarre oddity of Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (2017).

In doing a quick look up on who had made Tom and Jerry before sitting down to watch, I misread the name of the director and assumed it was made by Tim Hill, the director of a series of terrible live-action talking animal films with the likes of Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties (2006), Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) and Hop (2011). In fact, the director is Tim Story, previously known here for Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), as well as other non-genre films like Barbershop (2002), Taxi (2004), Think Like a Man (2012), Ride Along (2014) and Shaft (2019).

Watching Tom and Jerry, you rapidly come to the conclusion that it might as well have been made by Tim Hill – it is exactly the same film that he would have produced and goes for the exact same easy gags. You kind of get the sinking feeling about the film from the very opening scene that features rapping pigeons flying across the New York skies (where the rapping is apparently done by Tim Story himself) – although you suspect the very notion would have Hanna and Barbera spinning in their respective graves.

The film has been nominally intended as a Tom and Jerry origin story. It depicts how the two met and developed their rivalry – all apparently because Jerry upstaged Tom’s attempts to busk in Central Park while playing an electric piano! It should be noted that how the two characters met was something that the original cartoons never bothered to explain – the characters just were.

Tom, Jerry and Chloe Grace Moretz in Tom and Jerry (2021)
(l to r) Tom, Jerry and Chloe Grace Moretz

The film does feature the two characters fighting. There are some energetic sequences with them wrecking a hotel room and causing chaos in the hotel lobby. On the other hand, these seem a pale shadow of the fights between the two in the original cartoons. The originals were notoriously violent, including Jerry decapitating, electrocuting, setting Tom alight and slicing him in half, along with dropping the usual anvils and mallets on his head. The violence became of some controversy in later years to those who get uptight about such things. When it comes to the film, the battles seem considerably watered down and all the violence has been edited out – at most we see, Tom being electrocuted as he tries to walk across a powerline and several falls but none where it seems an intentional act on Jerry’s part.

Tom and Jerry has also been made as a Toon film – that is to say animation blended with live-action. Although the practice goes all the way back to Disney in the 1940s, the film that popularised what then became known as toons was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). The reason Tom and Jerry have been blended with live-action one suspects is that a purely animated Tom and Jerry film would have simply been slotted into another children’s animation film and thus been of limited interest. On the other hand, a quasi-live action Tom and Jerry film elevates it into the arena that similar revivals like Yogi Bear (2010) and Alvin and the Chipmunks have enjoyed in recent years. To justify this the film does a strange sleight of hand where every animal character in the film – from bulldogs to alley cats and elephants – is represented by animation. Some of the other animal characters do speak but Tom and Jerry themselves do not as was always the case in the original cartoons.

The live-action scenes are take them or leave them. Chloe Grace Moretz has demonstrates she is capable of far better than she is given here where she could be replaced by another young blonde starlet without making any difference to the film. Michael Peña should be complimented for taking a role that requires him to be the frequent butt of the physical comedy and going to town in a way that is above and beyond the call of duty. There has been a lot of hate for the film online but Tim Story delivers an okay if unmemorable effort. On the other hand, I felt films Roger Rabbit in its opening sequence and MouseHunt (1997), a previous attempt to create a violent ultra-violent live-action Tom and Jerry-like film, did all of this far more engagingly.

Trailer here

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