At a first glance, Warner Bros.’ live-action animated hybrid of the iconic Hanna-Barbera cartoon Tom & Jerry looked like a sure-fire dumpster fire, but it’s surprisingly better.
Now, first and foremost, the animation definitely takes some getting used to. Anyone who’s seen that Rocky and Bullwinkle movie with Robert DeNiro and Rene Russo, will surely have some PTSD in the first few moments of seeing an animated Tom and Jerry running around New York City. However, it’s easy to get used to and there’s a really great choice made to just make all of the animals seen in the film animated. It adds a great layer of consistency to the animation and even allows other iconic characters from the series to appear in more than just quick cameos. While I do wish that Droopy was a little more used simply because he’s always hilarious, it’s great that Spyke (voiced by Bobby Cannavale) and Toodles Galore are more involved in the plot—which isn’t half-bad.
It’s about what you’d expect in a story where Tom and Jerry are doing their usual antics while a crafty, down on her luck young woman named Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) is trying to get a permanent position at a major hotel as they host the wedding of two popular socialites. There’s certainly a lot of fun to be had in watching Tom & Jerry bring out that old-school cartoon violence with the same kind of animation pacing. There are some delightful callbacks to old skits and routines, including the return of the angel/devil Tom (voiced by Lil Rel Howery) appearing on Tom’s shoulders to guide him. They are absolutely hilarious and there’s also some new stuff that’s consistently funny. It was honestly a nice surprise how the film captures the titular duo’s wild antics and chases so authentically and they’re probably some of the best parts of the film.
Things on the human side aren’t even that bad in the first act/half as Moretz brings a fun spirit to the film that matches the animated energy. She showcases Kayla to be quick-witted and determined as she fakes it to make it within the hotel. Moretz brings a strong, charismatic charm and good comedic timing and her performance consistently enjoyable. It’s great that she has an equally solid cast to work with and the chemistry amongst everyone is pretty good. Even the story behind Kayla works pretty well, as she embodies both a millennial trying to make it and someone who wants to show they’re qualified for the job even if they don’t have the resume to show it. She’s a nice, timely character that most young adults can relate to and it’s also a solid character to have running around with Tom and Jerry.
Even when the jokes or direction don’t always work, Moretz holds it together really well—for the first act/half at least. Sadly, not even Moretz’s performance or Tom and Jerry’s animated hijinks can fully save the final two acts, as the film becomes a total drag. After Tom and Jerry essentially stop fighting and somewhat come together, the film just forces itself to keep going and drags itself out for way too long. It even feels like the film recognizes this with how the jokes start to falter, the story becomes too convoluted, and the messaging about Kayla becomes annoyingly overt. It almost feels like what happens to Tom when he tries to catch Jerry. Things go well at first and the next moment, it totally falls apart.
It’s also annoying how the film tries to give Tom & Jerry a modern feel by adding in hip-hop and R&B music that sticks out . It doesn’t help that a good portion of it is sung through a cartoon pigeon and doesn’t amplify moments like the film thinks it does. It’s almost as if director Tim Story had some left-over music from the Shaft reboot he did a couple years ago and decided to use it here. The moments where Tom is playing the piano feel more at home with this franchise and more orchestral score and music would’ve been more suitable.
Tom & Jerry isn’t a perfect return of the iconic animated frenemies, but it’s way better than it has any right to be. The fun moments of watching Tom and Jerry go at it, Moretz’s solid work, and some strong comedic consistency make this reboot a perfectly enjoyable for the whole family—especially if you can watch it on HBO Max.