Review by John Dugan
Throughout the past decade or so, live action adaptations of classic cartoons and animated media have become a staple of blockbuster cinema. As a fan of animation, I cannot say these adaptations were something I felt effectively captured the charm of the works they were based on. Unfortunately, Tom and Jerry: The Movie (Story, 2021), proved not to be an exception. It appears that Warner Bros. hoped that the brand name of Tom and Jerry, along with a number of household names like Chloe Grace Moretz (playing Kayla) and Michael Peña (playing Terence) would be enough to carry this film, because in all other respects Tom and Jerry was undeniably lacking.
The writing for the film was glaringly inconsistent, maintaining only a surface level focus on character motivations and dialogue, and the characters felt as if they were constantly being forced along for the sake of advancing the plot. This was all highlighted by the choppy editing, and the overuse of voiceover resulted in the dialogue standing out as lazily written, often breaking the immersion that was already difficult to maintain. Another effect of this choppy editing was that the acting throughout the film was constantly disrupted, and the acting towards the animated characters specifically suffered even more so. There were many scenes in which it was painfully obvious that the actors seemed to have little idea of how their animated costars would actually move.
The animation itself, which acts as the film’s main draw, was lacklustre to say the least. The filmmakers clearly tried to avoid a Sonic the Hedgehog (Jeff Fowler, 2020) redesign disaster by retaining a strong commitment to the original 2D hand drawn designs of the characters, while still capitalising off of the recent ‘live-action’ craze as seen through the likes of Disney remakes and Detective Pikachu (Letterman, 2019). However this results in an art style that is painfully boring to watch, with the characters appearing brazenly oversaturated and simplistic in design. Where the likes of Detective Pikachu took time to carefully translate the colourful Pokémon into believable live action counterparts, Tom and Jerry might as well have stayed in the second dimension, where the world around them can be used to further this over-the-top slapstick style. Furthermore, restricting the classic Tom and Jerry style cartoon violence to these lazily-made models lacks the suspense of disbelief that the original cartoons manage to convey so effectively, resulting in moments of cartoonish violence that feel out of place within the live action setting. Ultimately, if you’re a fan of the cartoon duo, stick to the original cartoons.