TOM & JERRY Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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TOM & JERRY Review

Tony grabs a frying pan…
Some double acts have a magical, timeless quality that means they’re as relevant decades on as they were when they began. You can make the case for Laurel and Hardy, you can doff your cap to Abbot and Costello, you can gaze in how-did-they-do-that wonder at Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Then there’s Tom and Jerry.

Arguably more timeless than all the rest due to their animated natures, free from the pressures of ageing or death, able to hit each other in the face with frying pans and irons till many generations of cows have come home. There’s something fundamental and joyous about Tom and Jerry – they’re simple, sure, and their dualistic conflict is based in nature, so it feels instinctively right to us. But they’ve also historically been great at wringing both slapstick and social satire out of the simple conflict between a cat and a mouse. Tom, the cat, has always been task-orientated, goal-driven, and doomed to inevitable failure despite all his best efforts to catch the mouse of his nightmares. Jerry, the mouse, has always been an effortless success, infuriating Tom even more by the fact that he lives for little but pleasure.

Trust me, you can build a whole essay on the socio-dynamic interplay of the middle and upper classes just by watching a lot of Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Let’s… not do that. We’re here to talk about the new movie version of the old conflict. The only point we’re really making is that they started out together in 1940. It’s now 2021, and there’s a brand new spick and span movie version of Tom & Jerry on release. That right there is bottled comedy lightning.

The new movie is big, and bold, and in lots of ways it tries to match the slapstick of real world events with the traditionally animated history of Tom and Jerry. The question of whether it works or not probably depends on how old you are when you watch it, and how much ‘classic’ Tom and Jerry you’ve watched.

In the first place, this movie takes the always-animated Tom and Jerry (as well as a host of other animated characters lifted straight out of their cartoon history) and places them in a real-world filmed environment. Our world, with animated characters in. Think Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but with techniques a couple of decades more advanced.

Technically, anyone watching for the joins between the animated and the real-world elements might be able to see them a little more than you’d expect in a world which has given us a lot of Jurassic Park movies, some dementedly detailed Lord of the Rings movies, and a trilogy of Planet Of The Apes movies where the apes actually looked like apes. There are a couple of shots in this movie where something hasn’t quite worked as it needed to, but the take has been left in. That’s fine – it only bugs the kind of people watching a movie about a cartoon cat and mouse with an eye to pain-in-the-butt exactitude.

The bigger change is the venue-shift. The traditional battleground for Tom and Jerry is a straightforward suburban house and the local area. It’s a scenario that was initially designed to appeal to children all across America, and then all across the world. Identifiable settings, identifiable animals, and explosive cartoon capery was a recipe for multi-decade, multi-million-dollar success.

For what amounts to an origin story reboot in the age of aspiration, cellphones and the internet, the movie translates Tom and Jerry to New York City, and in particular to the endlessly swanky Royal Gate Hotel. Where’s the bad, right? Just so many floors and opportunities for carnage and mayhem.
Well, yes, and no. Sure, on the face of it, a hotel full of Tom and Jerry is a great thing. Again, that whole idea of the goal-orientated, wannabe mouse-catcher Tom and the comparatively easy-living, cat-outwitting Jerry comes into play, just with more opportunities to show itself – penthouse suites versus kitchen slops, etc. All to the good.

Where the movie struggles a little more is in the human story interwoven through the cat-and-mouse chaos.

In the first place, the hotel is managed by an idiot named Mr Dubros (comedian Rob Delaney turning in a performance of which Kevin Cline at his comedic peak would have been proud). There’s no problem with idiots as such, it just puts a strain on the action if it’s only set in motion because of an idiot in charge.

Under him, there’s very much a Tom avatar, the constantly striving Terence. Played by Michael Cena with admirable intensity, he exists almost to show us the foolishness of hard work and caring about your job (Really – Tom avatar), compared to newcomer Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz). An underqualified but well-meaning grifter, Kayla (a total Jerry), steals someone else’s CV to get a job at the Royal Gate, and then lies, blags and cheats her way through a week in someone else’s career without any of the experience necessary to make it work.

Jerry too has moved into the Royal Gate and is quickly making a nuisance of himself, stealing everything he needs to equip himself with a tiny bachelor pad. Kayla, charged with the job of eradicating the mouse, brings Tom on board as an official member of staff, to do the job for her. Yes, really, she’s so generally job-delinquent, Kayla even outsources the easiest of her tasks. To a cat.
Cue plenty of Tom and Jerry hijinks in the old style and a new setting, where real things fall over in the real world when hit by a disproportionately strong mouse.

Cue extra Tom and jerry hijinks when the most vapid strand of storytelling shows up. There are a pair of celebrities with a godawful portmanteau name, having their wedding at the Royal Gate. Kayla, for reasons that are beyond all understanding, is charged with organizing the wedding, having just walked in the door.

We’re supposed to care about this couple, probably.

We don’t.

They’re as thinly drawn as a Twitter like, and we’d be just fine and dandy if their lives were horrid, bitter, lonely affairs and they were never happy again. But they’re the anchor of a big Kayla-Tom-Jerry co-operation event, first to try and get the wedding to go as planned, then finding a lost ring, and finally when the wedding goes spectacularly wrong, to put right all the things their involvement has made so wrong.

The fact that we don’t care about Preeta and Ben (Pallavi Sharda and Colin Jost, respectively) really underpowers the significant dramatic arc of the movie. The fact that a horribly contrived ‘Day out together in New York City to try to get along’ for Tom and Jerry, complete with Twitter account and selfies, is a large precursor to that thread also feels unhelpful. And if you remember any of the many eras of Tom and Jerry cartooning regarded as ‘Classic,’ you’ll certainly appreciate the energy in the slapstick between the cat and the mouse – because you’ll feel like you’ve seen it all before.

That’s the thing. For all it reboots the origin and gives them a broader, real-world canvas, the actual Tom and Jerry tomfoolery here is pretty much a move for move homage to some of their classic fights.

The key to enjoying tom & Jerry then… is to be about 8. Or, if you’re not about 8, to imagine that you are. If you’re relatively new to Tom and Jerry, think Instagram influencing is a valid thing to do and have no inkling of a pre-internet world, there’s every chance you’ll absolutely adore the new Tom & Jerry movie. And that’s a good thing, because that feels like the core of its audience.

As a Grumpy Old Reviewer, it’s all too easy to imagine everything must have been made with you in mind.

This. Absolutely. Wasn’t.

It was made to pull the same trick on new kids with new technology as Hanna Barbera pulled on you with the old technology back when you were young. To make you fall in love with the raucous relationship between a cat and a mouse.

Yes, the journey to Kayla’s moral redemption is clumsy. Yes, overall, the dreams of hardworking Latino Terence are made to seem foolish compared to the winging-it ways of the charming grifter. Yes, it’s all a bit Pink Panther slapstick – but remember being 8. Then entirely change your life so you’re 8 in 2021, with social media and all that comes with it. And then you’ll absolutely have a ball watching the new Tom & Jerry movie.

Nothing for the over-8s but chuntering about how it was better in their day, then?

Actually, plenty – the makers of Tom & Jerry have cottoned on to the gift of the homage and the guest appearance. They’ve cottoned on big-time – there are lovely touches, homages, guest appearances galore all the way throughout the piece (one in particular in the local petting jail will make the oldies laugh), and there’s fun to be had with reference-bingo – “Oh, look, there’s-” you’ll cry, while the 8 year-olds shush you with a “Whatever!”

If anything, the reference-bingo is almost too easy. For the oldies watching, it becomes the reason to watch, because the human story’s disengaging and the Tom and Jerrying is textbook stuff from the older cartoons – and, you rather suspect because the memory cheats, they probably did it slightly better in your day.

If you’re 8, or you know people who are 8 and in desperate need of slapstick animated fun after homeschooling or lockdown, strap ’em to the couch and make ’em watch Tom & Jerry. They’ll laugh a lot. You yourself will laugh… less, but there’s still more than a handful of comedy gold for the comically old here too. Go on… unleash the casual comedy sadist in your soul, and have a crack at Tom & Jerry today.

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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