Tom & Jerry (2021) Review

Thomas Farrell, Contributor

Reportedly stuck in development hell since at least 2009, the live-action/animated hybrid film Tom & Jerry is finally available to view in theaters and stream on HBO Max. The movie is directed by Tim Story – known for such classics as Fantastic Four and Think Like a Man Too – and stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña. This sounds like a match made in heaven, and the film must be a modern classic of the family-film genre! Right?

The titular cat and mouse both head to the big city, New York, hoping to find a new home to suit their needs. Of course, this tranquility doesn’t last for long as they quickly clash with each other and quirky hijinks ensue. Meanwhile, Kayla (played by Moretz) cons her way into a job at a hotel that’s preparing to host the wedding of “New York’s premier couple.” She butts heads with second in command, Terence Mendoza (played by Peña), and soon starts to command more authority than him. Tom and Jerry enter the story when Jerry takes up residence in the hotel and causes problems for the hotel staff. Kayla employs Tom to get rid of the pesky mouse, but it’s not as simple a task as it first appears.

The movie’s plot is simple, predictable, and has been seen countless times in other films. Unfortunately, it doesn’t elevate the story as none of the characters are particularly compelling or funny, and the setting is dull and boring. This setting is a New York with no soul or life and is very clearly just a set built on a lot in California. Even Tom and Jerry’s cartoon exploits fail to resuscitate the movie, as the slapstick comedy is either too tame or not particularly clever. While young kids may find some fun to be had, there’s not much for more general audiences. And even then, those same kids will be bored by the rest of the movie as Tom and Jerry barely play a role in the proceedings.

That’s probably the biggest flaw with the film – the lack of Tom and Jerry throughout. Sure, they’re usually present in most scenes and have plenty of screen time, but their impact on the plot is limited. Instead, we must focus on the hopeless character of Kayla – a psychopathic white woman who lies her way into a job, gets a Hispanic man fired, and is praised as a hero despite barely doing anything. Moretz has never been an outstanding actor, but her performance here is atrocious. The writing doesn’t do her any favors, but her over-the-top quirky persona grated on me after just listening to her speak for thirty seconds.

To make matters worse, the character herself is condescending. Another character, a female bellhop (played by Patsy Ferran), is frequently made out to be a weirdo for the way she acts and looks, despite the fact she is significantly more normal than our protagonist. In one scene, Kayla starts speaking to her and leaves when the girl goes on a tangent about something. How’s that for a good example for kids?

I wasn’t expecting this to be a Citizen Kane or even a Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it fails to supersede or even match the quality of similar movies like Looney Tunes: Back in Action or Space Jam. Nowhere is the gap in quality more evident than in the animation. Rather than stick to a solely 2D animated style, they opt for 3D animation that looks 2D. In short, it looks atrocious. While it enables some pretty dynamic slapstick sequences, the characters have an uncanny look to them, and they never interact with the “real world” in an exciting manner.

While it enables some pretty dynamic slapstick sequences, the characters have an uncanny look to them, and they never interact with the “real world” in an exciting manner

Neither halves of the live-action/animated hybrid succeed in delivering a fun movie with entertaining set-pieces or compelling and quirky characters. It’s a movie with no life and no soul and feels solely like a product shoved out the door to make money. Warner Bros allegedly made the film on a production budget of over $79 million, likely with a similarly sized marketing budget. It’s hard to see exactly where the money went, as it certainly didn’t go towards entertaining an audience with a fun movie.