Director Tim Story brings William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s legendary cat and mouse rivalry to the big screen in Warner Bros. Tom & Jerry. Set in Manhattan, the film introduces us to “Tom Cat” and his grand dreams of becoming a piano player. We get a chance to see Tom play his keyboard in Central Park, where he is a big hit. Meanwhile, his longtime enemy “Jerry” is trying to find a new home and scopes out Tom making money. Seeing a chance to shine, Jerry steals Tom’s thunder, leading to a fight destroying Tom’s keyboard.
In New York, Kayla Forester (Chloë Grace Moretz) has successfully hustled herself into a new position at the Royal Gate Hotel. Kayla’s first assignment is to assist the hotel event manager Terence (Michael Peña), with the high-profile wedding of Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) and Ben (Colin Jost). Naturally, Jerry decides to make the hotel his home, putting a damper on the wedding. A series of events involving Jerry’s reckless behavior leads to Kayla hiring Tom to remove Jerry before the wedding.
Following a twenty-five-year hiatus from the big screen with their shorts, the cat and mouse pair had a theatrical feature-length animated film in the summer of 1993 titled Tom and Jerry: The Movie. The second feature-length film of Tom & Jerry opens with a Pigeon Announcer lip-synching to A Tribe Called Quest. An abysmal failure on every level; the only thing you need to know is that the film made the cardinal mistake of having the two characters talk. Therefore, I had hopes that Tom & Jerry would be a fun Meta-aware film.
Unfortunately, the film makes some of the same mistakes as the 1993 adaptation. In addition to speaking in that film, the lead character had more attention than the cat and mouse themselves. The same thing happens here with the film focusing on Chloë Grace Moretz’s character of Kayla and her shenanigans after lying to get a job. Now I am a fan of the actress, but put the film is called Tom and Jerry, not Kayla Gets a Job.
In hindsight, it appears that Kevin Costello’s script for the film may have initially been about a girl getting a job at a hotel, and the studio decided to throw in the characters of Tom & Jerry. Kayla’s story has so many story beats we have been before, befriending the bride, a possible romance with another hotel employee, a rivalry with a longtime employee of the company.
Moretz and Pallavi Sharda are exemplary in their roles since the script does not require them to do much. However, Colin Jost, Michael Peña, Ken Jeong, and Rob Delaney all reek of paycheck performances. The quadrant of the names mentioned above is all talented performers. All have all done better work in the past, but here they go through the motions.
Regarding the direction of Tim Story, the director bring his usual style to the film. One of Story’s strengths is keeping a film moving along quickly, which he does for Tom & Jerry’s run time. A small part of me feels that Story’s original intent for the film may have been the Meta vibe I alluded to earlier.
One of the few scenes I liked in the movie does involve Jerry listening to Jodeci, while singer Nicky Jam shows up to voice Butch, the leader of the alley cat bullies whom diehard Tom & Jerry fans will know. Furthermore, comedy toupee “The Plastic Cup Boyz” voices Butch’s gang, and Bobby Cannavale provides the voice of Spike.
The elements were there to make a successful modern-day adaptation, and perhaps the better route to go was an entirely animated film. Given that Tom & Jerry did not speak in the original shorts, the live-action/animated hybrid does not work for the characters. While I will give credit to the animators for the beautiful designs, there is not too much in the film to recommend in the movie for anyone over thirteen.
Final Grade: D