I – I kinda feel heartbroken. Y’know, like, when a friend hands you their CV, asking you to hand it to your boss and put in a good work, but you know their work ethic is trash and they’re abysmal at everything they do, so you shred the CV and forget this whole event ever happened? (True story. I’m looking you, Reece.)
The above event causes this painful ache in the pit of your stomach. I got a similar sensation when I spoke to Chloë Grace Moretz – someone who was so warm and amicable – only to, well, really, really dislike the film she was promoting.
The year is 2021. After hugely successful big-screen remakes of the Pokémon and Sonic the Hedgehog franchises, Tom and Jerry – naturally – did the same, but it didn’t feel right. Tom and Jerry just don’t work as a long-form piece of content. Their humour relies entirely on silent slapstick antics, which works in a short TV special as you’re pretending to eat cereal only to get the toy in the box. But for a 101 minute-long movie? That’s exactly why Detective Pikachu cast Ryan Reynolds as a talking Pikachu, as opposed to making the character mute.
You could argue that one of Pixar’s best films, WALL·E, predominantly featured two silent characters, but they shared a gorgeous, romantic story arc. (I can’t believe I’ve said that about, essentially, two toasters.) The film opens with WALL·E seemingly being the most isolated being on the planet; someone who hasn’t had any form of contact in decades, only for him to meet EVE, and to fall in love with her. Despite being entirely silent, this works, because there’s a plot to follow; their relationships change. Whilst with Tom and Jerry; their story arc is to, well, hit each other over the head with various items. That’s it.
Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t have Tom and Jerry without their trademarked slapstick sense of humour; it wouldn’t be them if they weren’t lobbing bowling balls at each other; watching this did hit me directly in the nostalgia, but to really engage an audience in 2021, there needs to be more than this. I think even the makers of this film knew that, which is why they threw so much at the wall, only for none of it to stick, really.
This film is clearly aimed at children, but it just panders to them too much. For some unknown reason, a movie adaptation of a 1940s animation is soundtracked entirely by the most obnoxious hip-hop tunes ever. Every scene features this weird rap, as if a board of elderly white men just sat down and said “Kids – kids still like Kanye West, don’t they? He raps. So…” and lo and behold, the movie opens with rapping, krumping pigeons. Maybe that was the tone they producers were trying to go for, but during one scene, Tom sits down at a grand piano, and somehow, begins to play hip-hop; even his voice is so tuned that T-Pain would switch off.
And how many times do we REALLY need a poo joke in a movie? Don’t get me wrong – I will make at least five poo jokes every minute; they’re hilarious. But not in a film with nearly a £57,000,000 budget. This script was written by someone; reviewed and edited by someone else; approved by someone else; and read aloud by someone else. They all agreed on the idea that a dog having a shit in the street was the best punchline for this moment? That’s not the only mention of poo. A silent character appears to be imagining the poo emoji. I’m starting to think that whoever wrote the screenplay should seek some sort of therapy.
As someone who has tried – and failed (multiple times) – to write a screenplay, I think it’s only fair that I brutally dissect that of Tom and Jerry. Frankly, it’s not that funny. It does have it’s moments – there are a few meta gags, nodding to the older audience, such as when Colin Jost states that his cartoon pets are “a little animated” – but otherwise, everything falls flat. Sometimes, jokes don’t even logically make sense. One character spots an elephant stood in the same building as them, and asks “Did you address the elephant that is here?” to which someone responds by saying “Yes, I addressed the elephant in the room”. To me, this would have worked if she had have actually ignored the animal itself, and simply mentioned a controversial subject, thus addressing the elephant in the room, but… She did neither. It just doesn’t work, does it?
Don’t even get me started on the clearly outdated, racist jokes. (Even if you didn’t get me started; this is my review – I’ll start when I damn want.) Maybe in the 40s, when Tom and Jerry first aired, these gags would have been uttered and not too many would have batted an eye, but when Colin Jost chuckles at the way Michael Peña says “hamster” because he has an accent just seems so wrong, doesn’t it? Falling on such boring stereotypes – like (apologies for outing you again) when Colin’s character says to his Asian father-in-law that he’s getting in to cricket to try to please him – cannot make anyone laugh, surely. We know cricket is a popular sport in India. Where is the joke?
The only reason I’m giving Tom and Jerry two stars is for it’s great cast – Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña do all they can to salvage this; they give all they can with the material they’ve got, and it’s nice to not see them just phone it in and walk away with a ridiculous pay check. (Again, I can’t judge; I do that at work on a daily basis.) Ken Jeong also appears in a smaller role, playing Ken Jeong in every film/show he’s done before, but I couldn’t get enough of him. It’s a shame the same couldn’t be said for the animated, titular characters. Tim Story, the director, said he purposefully opted to make the characters look two-dimensional; I assume to pay homage to the original style, but you didn’t have to animate them on computers from the 1940s too. The animation just looked horrible; as certain characters talk, their tongues don’t move. Hoodwinked! called; it wants it abysmal aesthetic back.
I dare say that kids probably will watch Tom and Jerry and enjoy it. But maybe once or twice. That’s it. Children’s movies don’t have to be exclusively for children. In a world of Toy Story, Inside Out, Paddington and The LEGO Movie, why settle with being a Tom and Jerry?