The classic cat and mouse duo return to our screens more than 80 years after the first Hanna-Barbera produced short film debut. They were the kings of children’s cartoons in the 1960’s and 1970’s, with repeats airing all throughout the 80’s and 90’s to many generations of kids, their popularity remaining so strong that they got a feature length animated release in 1992, (this writer remembers not only owning A VHS copy but also wearing said copy out!)
Chloe Grace Moretz plays Kayla, who blags her way in to an entertainment coordinator position at a top New York hotel. With a celebrity wedding taking place in the very near future, Kayla hires Tom to take care of the hotel’s Jerry-shaped mouse problem. The question is, can our titular duo still cut it 21 years in to the 21st century?
Well, the answer is…yes, but that comes with a strong caveat, namely whether your think slapstick violence is timeless and will always be entertaining. For example, Charlie Chaplin repeatedly falling over or being run down by a wide array of vehicles, a cartoon mouse smacking a cartoon cat in the face with a bowling ball before dropping a piano on him from a large height for good measure, or a cat who has his fingers slammed shut in window frame, cat runs in to walls repeatedly, cat falls several stories on to the pavement below etc. The strength of our favourite frenemies is kept in this very simple formula.
What made Tom & Jerry so popular was that it was a short 7 minute segment of a mouse getting the better of a dastardly cat. It was easily digestible, wafer-thin slices of chaotic vio-fun. But when those slices become a 1 hour 40 minute chunk, you are left chewing on it like a cheap steak and the action becomes less palatable. Also when you take these much loved animated characters and place them in a live-action environment, surrounded by an oddly miscast Chloe Grace Moretz and try to introduce a different brand of “comedy” from Michael Peña, who sadly lacks any charisma here at all, SNL’s Colin Jost and joke-gone-too-far-too-long Ken Jeong, the whole thing becomes very messy.
I’m clearly not the target audience for this movie and I think there are more than enough comedic elements involving Tom & Jerry to keep children entertained, which stops it from becoming completely irredeemable. However there is nothing really to entice mum and dad to join in with the enjoyment of the film, particularly following the success of the live-action elements in Sonic and Detective Pikachu, so there really is no excuse for this. A real missed opportunity!