Tom and Jerry: They’re back and not doing any better

The classic cat and mouse duo senselessly fight their way through nearly two hours of an uninspired, HBO Max film while much of the story happens either around them or as a result of their constant fighting.

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How will our favorite frenemies, Tom and Jerry, fare in the busy streets of New York? (Warner Bros. Pictures / Tom & Jerry)

Cole Sullivan

Thomas D. Cat and Jerome A. Mouse have been at each other’s throats for 80 years now, and this time, it’s no different—notwithstanding their insertion into a live-action New York City.

I was a “Tom & Jerry” fan when I was younger, so naturally I was excited to hear about their latest appearance on HBO Max, this time in a “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”-style film that revolves around an extravagant wedding between Ben and Preeta (Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda, respectively) at the fictional Royal Gate Hotel. The wedding is overseen by a recently unemployed Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) who lies her way into a job at the hotel and is knocked off her bike by a grueling Tom chasing Jerry through Central Park. That lack of explanation for both quitting her old job and lying her way into a new one exemplifies a main problem with the latest iteration of the classic cartoon duo: no one seems to have a good enough reason for any of their actions.

Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) deals with the debacles of Tom and Jerry while working at a hotel. (Warner Bros. Pictures / Tom & Jerry)

The hotel’s head of events Terence (Michael Peña) is placed on leave by the head of the hotel, Mr. Dubros (Rob Delaney), for the most ridiculous of reasons and Kayla is promoted to his position despite being arguably more at fault. Moments like this would not be that bad if we could at least root for Kayla, but she, like most other characters in the movie, is incompetent and unlikable. Kayla lies throughout the entire film, even when it has the potential to ruin others’ careers; Mr. Dubros is generally inept at his job like when he makes the decision to replace Terence; and Terence is rude and lacks a sense of humor—a grand shame considering Michael Peña’s typically hilarious character acting.

Tom and Jerry themselves are also a constant source of trouble, which we might expect to save the film, but sadly, their antics don’t redeem it whatsoever. Most of the humor comes from self-aware lines like when Ben says, “He’s a little animated,” in reference to his dog, the classic “Tom and Jerrycharacter Spike (Bobby Canavale). I laughed, but I’m an easy laugh.

Skillful animation in “Tom & Jerry” as the dynamic duo takes the streets of New York. (Warner Bros. Pictures / Tom & Jerry)

The characters, story and writing are all marginal at best—really nothing at all in this movie is worth writing home about. Even the animation, or at least the way the animated characters interact with the live-action aspects of the film, was not executed well. The actors usually, but not always, seem to observe the animated characters as they fight with each other or the scenery and objects around them.

Tom, Jerry and the other animals all feel pasted on as an afterthought rather than incorporated seamlessly into the movie. Many of the fights between them take place while they are separated from other members of the cast, which makes the movie incredibly incohesive—the main plotline surrounds a wedding falling apart, interspersed with old T&J reruns that just happen to be occurring at the same time and in the same location. That would have been fine, had I not expected a movie with Tom and Jerry at the center of the story instead of this wedding with characters I have just met and have known for less than two hours.

Tom and Jerry have it out in the halls of the hotel in which the majority of the movie is staged. (Warner Bros. Pictures / Tom & Jerry)

Ultimately, the film seems to me to be another product of a media landscape where quantity is at a premium as streaming companies search for ways to differentiate themselves from each other—the easiest way being to have the most abundant and most recognizable content. “Tom & Jerry” was a series that developed great characters that a lot of people will remember, but this particular chapter just feels rushed. The iconic duo deserved a much better effort than they got here.

★★★