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"TOM AND JERRY"
(2021) (Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: When a mouse moves into a hotel right before the biggest wedding in years, a desperate event planner hires the rodent's feline archenemy to deal with the situation.
PLOT:

Tom Cat (HIMSELF) and Jerry Mouse (HIMSELF) are lifelong enemies who've both ended up in New York City. Jerry is simply looking for a new place to call home, while Tom has dreams of being a star keyboard player. But when Jerry ruins one of Tom's outdoor gigs, the cat chases the mouse into the storied The Royal Gate Hotel which has a strict no pets -- or warring animals -- policy. But they've bent those rules for star couple Preeta (PALLAVI SHARDA) and Ben (COLIN JOST) who've decided to have their lavish wedding at the upscale hotel, complete with their pets, Toots the cat and Spike the bulldog (voiced by BOBBY CANNAVALE).

While otherwise fully staffed with the likes of barman Cameron (JORDAN BOLGER), bell girl Joy (PATSY FERRAN), and Chef Jackie (KEN JEONG) among many others, they have a vacancy in the events planner role. Enter newly unemployed Kayla (CHLOË GRACE MORETZ) who diverts a real candidate for the job and presents that woman's impressive resume as her own. While events manager Terence (MICHAEL PEÑA) isn't impressed, General Manager Mr. Dubros (ROB DELANEY) is and hires Kayla on the spot.

And upon the sighting of Jerry in the hotel, her first job is to get rid of him before word gets out about a rodent incident. Accordingly, she ends up hiring Tom to do the job, and with the cat and mouse well-versed in the ways of battle, it's not long before they wreak havoc not only on the place, but also the big wedding and Kayla's new job.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

While it wasn't the first film to feature animated and live-action actors appearing and interacting on screen together, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" is pretty much the gold standard of such films. Released back in 1988, it was considered an amazing technological breakthrough at the time where hand-drawn characters such as Jessica Rabbit physically interacted with real objects as well as flesh and blood characters like the gumshoe played by Bob Hoskins.

It was also notable for depicting such animated characters as real actors who were just playing their parts while the cameras were rolling and had a full range of off-set emotions like their flesh and blood counterparts. Of course, "WFRR" wasn't the originator in mixing real and imaginary characters.

Inspired by movies like "King Kong," creative types eventually mixed cartoons and real people together, most notably Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse having a side-by-side dance sequence in "Anchors Away." Now, seventy-six years later, and after plenty of other appearances (including a full-length, critical and box office failure in "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" back in 1992) the second most popular animated rodent and his archenemy feline return for more animated-meets-live-action hijinks in "Tom and Jerry."

I have to admit that despite owning a life-size Tom and Jerry doll (the kind with the pull-string voice activation) way back when, the duo were never my favorites in terms of animated characters, especially of the constantly warring variety. My taste went with the Looney Tunes characters, be that the Road Runner always managing to best Wile E. Coyote or Bugs Bunny getting the better of Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, or Daffy Duck.

But the shorts featuring them and the standalone Tom and Jerry ones were all cut from the same zany, hyper-violent cloth where otherwise deadly acts and accidents had no long-lasting effects (something "The Simpsons" pushed to the funny limits decades later with the Itchy & Scratchy characters).

That continues here in this offering from director Tim Story and screenwriter Kevin Costello where Tom and Jerry (thankfully once again mute after the '92 debacle gave them voices, notwithstanding one scene featuring Tom on the piano) end up at New York City's posh and rodent and pet-free Royal Gate Hotel after one of their typical, chaotic and violent chase bits.

Whether it was done to save money in avoiding the cost of creating CGI versions of the two and other animals that appear, or simply to pay homage to the animation style of old, the title characters and the rest of the critters appear as mostly two-dimensional beings that look like flat cartoons in a real world, not that any of the humans present have an issue with that or even notice.

Beyond the frenetic moments of Tom and Jerry (and a few other critters, such as a bulldog voiced by Bobby Cannavale) going at it, the plot revolves around newly unemployed Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) who learns of an opening at the swanky hotel, redirects a qualified applicant for the job, and uses that woman's resume to land the events planner position, much to the distrust of her immediate boss (Michael Peña) but to the delight of the general manager (a fun Rob Delaney).

With the wedding of the century -- between famous couple Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) and Ben (Colin Jost) -- right around the corner, Kayla's first job is to get rid of Jerry once he's spotted in the hotel. Natch, she ends up hiring Tom to deal with the mouse issue. Double natch, hijinks ensue, including -- in true old cartoon fashion -- some elephants there for the ceremony that freak out upon seeing Jerry.

That plot and all the live-action material is fairly lame and only generates a laugh or two (most of which stems from brief comedy references to other Warner Bros. movies and characters). I also could have done without the nearly nonstop hip-hop soundtrack that feels shoehorned in to make things seem, well, hip, but that clashes with the old school vibe the rest of the film is trying to exude.

And at around 100 minutes, it feels long simply because the story and, frankly, the physical interactions between the animated and flesh and blood characters isn't on par with the fun and creativity Robert Zemeckis pulled off so many years ago with "Roger Rabbit." All of that said, if you or your kids are fans of Tom and Jerry and their brand of rock 'em, sock 'em action-violence comedy, there's plenty of that to appease such longings. Okay, but nothing great, "Tom and Jerry" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed February 26, 2021 / Posted February 26, 2021


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