'Tom & Jerry' Misses the Mark With Live-Action Animated Comedy (Review)

After it was announced in December, WarnerMedia would be more aggressive with their offerings amid the streaming wars among hefty competitors like Netflix and Amazon, HBO Max’s anticipated release of live-action and animated comedy Tom & Jerry has finally arrived — and it’s kind of just meh. While the movie, based on the iconic characters, has its moments between the silent-feuding rivals and an all-star cast of funny actors, it’s not enough to hold up the entire movie.

Originally scheduled for release later this spring but bumped up to the end of February by Warner Bros. Pictures, director Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four) opens up Tom & Jerry with an exciting vibe through three New York City pigeons singing A Tribe Called Quest’s, “Can I Kick It,” leading us to see Tom and Jerry are currently thriving in the utmost millennial way. Cool cat Tom is an aspiring musician who dreams of working with John Legend one day, whereas Jerry is just trying to find a place to live — a subtle yet ironic joke into how New York living is not easy even for a tiny mouse. But as the two try to make it on their own, they somehow always get in the way of each other as they squabble in Central Park and soon entangle the movie’s live-action protagonist Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) relates to them in more ways than one.

Stemming from a simple premise of Jerry looking to find a decent home and deciding upon Kayla’s workplace at the city’s finest hotel for his humble abode, shenanigans ensue as she soon hires Tom to get rid of him. The cat and mouse battle not only threatens to destroy her career but jeopardizes the wedding and hotel itself. But as Kayla works hard to prove herself to her manager (Rob Delaney), her ambitious co-worker Terrence (Michael Pena) conspires against all three of them.

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(Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures / HBO Max)

While the simple premise with slapstick humor might sit well with kids and adults alike thanks to some very laugh-out-loud moments, like Peña getting caught in the eye of an “animal hurricane,” Delaney’s straight-shooting self-deprecating humor or just about every scene with Ken Jeong, it’s clear the movie isn’t just about Tom and Jerry. In fact, in many ways, the two animated characters are more of an accent than actual leads for a movie that shares their namesake. There’s no real development for Tom and Jerry except for the fact that they suddenly have to work together to make things right for Kayla. Additionally, it plays to them being more two-dimensional than anything and doesn’t give us much reason to want to see them again should Warner Bros. want to reboot the franchise in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the actual actors get more rhythm in their development — though it’s not exactly balanced and, at times, feels feigned. While Kayla manages to grow into a self-actualization phase thanks to a solid performance from Moretz, who manages to hold her own on some proper comedic timing among her co-stars, the others come off almost ancillary for the sake of comic relief and it isn’t fair to the value their characters bring to a story that could have been an excellent family film. After all, the movie boasts an all-star cast, including Bobby Cannavale and Lil Rel Howry's voice talents. While Pena is always so fun to watch especially as he takes this character over-the-top, Delaney is just as delightful with his matter-of-fact tone and humor and Patsy Ferran as Joy the Bell Girl deserved a little more attention instead of being a constant punchline. Colin Jost and Pallavi Sharda play the elite, one-percenters who are tying the knot and while much of the story centers around their wedding, there was a lack of chemistry between the two, especially as Jost came off stiff but also appearing on the verge of breaking out in laughter at every scene — even for scenes that were not supposed to be funny. Lastly, it can be argued Jeong, in all his comedy stylings, is a true anchor of interest for this movie as he channels his frustrations as head chef in hilarious ways.

Though well-intended, Tom & Jerry is a pretty ordinary movie that attempts to maintain the franchise’s spirit with an uninspired premise and a simple, even safe, script by Kevin Costello that gets stuck in some major silliness. The movie isn’t terrible, but it is, for lack of a better word, just meh. It’s watchable and will provide some solid moments of laughter, but it’s unoriginal and brings nothing new for audiences to want more. While the characters are memorable, the dialogue isn’t, and it feels like something you’ll see on TV in a few years and wonder to yourself, “I don’t remember this scene,” and possibly cue another re-watch that might have you remembering why you cannot recollect the moment.

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At just over an hour-and-a-half, the movie is easy to watch and cute in the moment, especially with its cast and the film’s excellent execution of animation. The movie truly wins at its eye-popping blend of classic two-dimensional animation and live-action, which is a refreshingly appreciated detail as today’s animated movies are oftentimes inundated with the three-dimensional treatment. But even as it pays homage to a Who Framed Roger Rabbit kind of feel with its visual effects and an old-school aesthetic, it’s a movie that should have stayed off the silver screen — at least for now.

Tom & Jerry is now in theaters and currently available to watch on HBO Max until March 28. For more on all your favorite movies and what’s to come next on the most popular streaming platforms, keep it locked to PopCulture.com for the latest.