Tom & Jerry

Tom & Jerry is Objectively, Aggressively Awful

Dept. of Soulless Endeavours


The average Tom & Jerry short runs at between five to seven minutes. Trust me when I tell you that watching 20 of those back to back is far more satisfying than subjecting yourself to whatever this is.

Actually, I’ll tell you what this is. Trying and failing to channel Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite, Kevin Costello decides instead to write a slapstick rom-com, with a plot that centred around the family drama and shenanigans that comes with a mixed-race high society wedding. He sets it at a fancy New York hotel and tries to find some humour in the Upstairs, Downstairs interactions between the quirky hotel staff and the wild demands of the couple and their increasingly ostentatious nuptials.

Warner Bros. comes along, buys the script, and goes: “You know what would make this really fun? If we made this a live action/animation hybrid with Tom and Jerry. Yes, that Tom and Jerry. Are you particularly attached to the name My Big Fat Indian Wedding? It feels like it’s been done. Let’s just call it Tom & Jerry. And can you make it an origin story? And we’ve got Ken Jeung on retainer, so see how you can fit him into all of this as well.”

Which is pretty much what we get. An overstuffed and tragically unfunny origin story that is about as unnecessary as ejection seats on a helicopter.

Tom & Jerry

Tom is a cat with a dream. He’s a pianist and singer (no, seriously!) looking to one day perform with John Legend at Madison Square Garden. (FYI: None of this inane set-up pays off at any point during the movie.) So he comes to Manhattan, keyboard under his arm, and busks in Central Park while pretending to be blind in order to earn some sympathy money. Jerry is a homeless mouse looking for a place to live when he happens upon Tom and decides to get in on his grift. Cat and mouse hijinks ensue. But not for long.

Because shoehorned into all of this is the story of Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz), a spunky young woman who is so desperate for a job that she steals someone else’s resume and cons her way into becoming an events coordinator at the swanky Royal Gate Hotel. There is the wedding of mixed-race socialites Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda), and the story of their very public relationship. There’s Michael Peña as Terrance, the highly competitive ass-kisser who treats the hotel like his own personal fiefdom. And there’s Ken Jeong playing a high strung Chef Jackie.

Does all of that sound like a lot? It is. In fact, there is so much of this pointless human drama that Tom and Jerry are reduced to bit players in their own damn movie.

But you know what? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the asshole, thinking that a movie called Tom & Jerry would primarily be about… Tom and Jerry.

On the bright side – and I’m grasping here – at least they didn’t make Tom and Jerry talk like they did in that travesty from 1992. Which might be the only thing that Director Tim Story and writer Kevin Costello get right. (Though at one point in this movie, Tom does start to sing in a scarily synthesised voice that is guaranteed to haunt your children’s dreams.)

Tom & Jerry

This is a movie that fails to grasp just who and what Tom and Jerry are. For 80 years, these characters have had a singular purpose, and that is to find new and creative ways to inflict pain on each other, whether by way of electrocution, or decapitation, or falling ass first onto a stuffed swordfish. They may not have originated the phrase “cat and mouse,” but these cartoons have become a visual keystone for what it means.

So why try and force them into an alliance? Why try to make them friends? What narrative purpose does that serve? What is the point other than to provide further proof that this is a movie made by people who think that children are stupid and deserve the basest of entertainments. (See also: Dolittle.)

There are some fleeting moments of classic Tom and Jerry mayhem, but they are far too few to make a dent in an otherwise soulless endeavour.

The filmmakers care so little about this movie that even the ADR on Ken Jeung when he says “Why do you hate me?” doesn’t match the movement of his lips.

Just who is the target demographic for this movie? Did we really need to see the Tom & Jerry meet-cute? Surely this concept is so universal and self-explanatory that it doesn’t actually require a forced and phoney origin story? Hell, we’ve enjoyed their violent repartee for eight decades and not needed one.

Why are all the jokes so dated? Was this movie actually made in the 1990s? Is that why it opens with A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?”

Are kids really going to give a damn about the state of Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s relationship? Is it just me or was it incredibly tone-deaf to have Chloe Grace Moretz’s Kayla whinge to Jordan Bolger’s Cameron, a Black bartender, about how hard life is for a white girl from a small town?

Tom & Jerry
Oh wait… maybe it isn’t inspired by Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, but set in an alternate reality where the Bidens and the Harris’ children get married and throw a big fat Indian wedding.

Tom and Jerry deserve better. Chloe Grace Moretz does too. A better script. A director who seems genuinely interested in trying to make this work. (Maybe don’t hire the guy responsible for Think Like a Man and Think Like a Man Too.) And a much deeper understanding of the material they’re actually trying to adapt.

There is a great feature length Tom & Jerry movie out there. But it’s going to take a lot more than the combined brain power of Tim Story and Kevin Costello to pull it off. Maybe we can all chip in and send Warner Bros. a copy of the last Shaun the Sheep movie?

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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