Tom & Jerry: The Movie is a fresh take on the legendary rivalry that does an excellent job of blending the classic elements that make their story so great, with modern sensibilities.
I watched a lot of cartoons growing up. Being the son of immigrants who worked literally 365 days a year (I’m not joking), I spent more than my share of time watching TV. Tom & Jerry is not only one of the most iconic animated franchises, for me it’s the show that my father and I watched together regularly as a child.
It makes me happy that the Tom & Jerry brand has endured since the original short films of the 1940s, and speaks to the timeless fun that the two mischievous rivals represent. With this latest film, Warner Bros. and director Tim Story (Shaft, Think Like a Man, Barbershop) bring Tom & Jerry into the modern world, without sacrificing any of what made their story great.
Tom & Jerry: The Movie premieres today with a simultaneous release in select theaters and on HBO Max! Spoilers below!
Tom and Jerry find their way to New York City and the very exclusive Royal Gate Hotel. At the same time, a down on her luck young women, Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz), finagles her way into a temporary event planning position at the hotel as they prepare for the wedding of the year between celebrity couple
Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda).
The hotel is run by Mr. Dubros (Rob Delaney), with the help of the director of the Events staff, Terence (Michael Peña). Additional notable staff at the hotel include the bartender Cameron (Jordan Bolger), the bell girl Joy (Patsy Ferran) and the Michelin worthy head chef Jackie (Ken Jeong).
Over the course of the weekend, Jerry makes himself very comfortable within the Royal Gate Hotel, while Tom is left out in the cold. Kayla is specifically tasked with finding a way to get rid of Jerry (he is a rodent after all), under the skeptical scrutiny of Terence.
As the story progresses, and expected shenanigans ensue, the wedding is nearly called off and everyone (even Tom and Jerry) must come together to save the ceremony, and more importantly, Ben and Preeta’s relationship.
This film is truly fun for all ages, which is absolutely critical for a Tom & Jerry story. Given my own personal history with the franchise, I would not have accepted any misguided attempt to modernize the story by making it inaccessible to kids. Fortunately, that’s not the case at all with Tom & Jerry: The Movie. While it does take place in a modern setting, the fun mischief and hilarious comic fighting remain intact.
I enjoyed seeing the time honored gags like Jerry pulling the mouse hole at the last minute so Tom could run into the wall, and Tom trying to see what Jerry is holding in his hands only to get punched in the eye. These types of things sound absolutely absurd when written out, but they’re part of Tom & Jerry’s DNA and I can’t help but chuckle to myself as I recount them. If you know, you know.
As fun as nostalgia is, Tom and Jerry’s story does benefit from some modernization. First and foremost, the film is infused with a hip-hop soundtrack with songs like “Can I Kick It” by A Tribe Called Quest and “Come and Talk to Me” by Jodeci played strategically throughout. It’s nothing too edgy or overly modern (“Can I Kick It” was released in 1990 after all) but it was a nice twist to hear hip-hop and rap during a Tom & Jerry film.
This film is a blend of live-action and animation, with all of the animals being animated and placed in a live-action world. Chloë Grace Moretz, as Kayla, is tasked with carrying much of the story, especially as she has the most interactions with both Tom and Jerry. It couldn’t have been easy to act opposite two animated characters, but Moretz handles the physical comedy well.
Almost all of the roles around Moretz are played by diverse actors, with the always hilarious Michael Peña playing a substantial role as Moretz’s disapproving supervisor. Peña’s physical comedy is exceptional and he was able to seamlessly balance the interactions with his fellow co-stars and their animated counterparts. You really can’t tell the difference based on his reactions, and that’s a testament to Peña’s abilities.
Overall, the film’s story is a pleasant one. Despite the decades long rivalry and all the shenanigans, in the end, Tom and Jerry put their differences aside and work together, along with the rest of the characters, to save Ben and Preeta’s marriage and successfully execute their wedding.
Coming in at a run time of 1 hour and 41 minutes, this film was too long by about 20 minutes. I’m a firm believer that kid friendly films should be no longer than 90 minutes, and many can be shorter than that. There shouldn’t be so much plot to warrant more than 90 minutes and Tom & Jerry: The Movie would have benefited from a tighter story and little more editing.
Beyond the runtime, the story around Moretz’s Kayla stretches disbelief, even for an animated film. When a film is about an animated cat and mouse who interact with humans, you really can’t complain about believability, but Kayla’s story was unnecessarily absurd and not funny enough to justify the absurdity. Kayla is a random girl with no credentials, who chases off an experienced potential employee, steals her resume and immediately lands a job at a prestigious hotel. I’m not sure why any of that had to be included when she could have easily just been an intern or new employee trying to keep her job. In the end, that part of Kayla’s character doesn’t drag down the film much, but simplifying her background could have cut down on the runtime.
Another element that misfired was the vague implied romance between a few characters. First, Kayla and Cameron have a barely believable friendship, that leans towards romance at various times, without completely crossing over. A romantic storyline definitely wasn’t necessary, but I would have preferred either avoiding it completely or making it explicit. At the end of the film, there’s another implied potential romantic link between Terence and potential new employee, which was awkward at best.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the film was the underutilized Ken Jeong. Jeong makes at best a cameo appearance in a couple of scenes and is completely inconsequential to the plot. I’m not sure how you get an a comedic actor of Jeong’s level and not use him more.
It’s great that this film was directed by Black director in Tim Story, and is full of diverse supporting characters. I’m not sure how many diverse creators have had the chance to play in the Tom & Jerry world, but unlikely to be a long list. I appreciated the infusion of diversity from the characters, to the voice cast to the music.
RATING – 4/5 Pocky
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.