Rest easy, Tom and Jerry escape the PC brigade! BRIAN VINER finds that 80 years on, the legendary cartoon cat and mouse still fizz with slapstick violence in new movie
Tom and Jerry The Movie
Any movie premise involving a pair of animated superstars should start by looking good on paper. And this one clearly did – revive those old cartoon troupers Tom and Jerry, surround them with real-life actors in a real-life New York City, and let them run riot in a daft yarn involving a society wedding, set in a swanky hotel.
Plenty of ideas look great on paper only to be woefully realised on screen. But director Tim Story and screenwriter Kevin Costello keep everything fizzing along with considerable energy – and a thumping soundtrack – even if audiences who grew up adoring Tom & Jerry shorts on TV might eventually find their staying power tested. An hour and 41 minutes isn’t long for a film – but it is long for a game of cat and mouse.
We first meet Tom busking in Central Park, where to extract maximum admiration – and profit – he plays the piano while pretending to be blind. When his act is sabotaged by Jerry, the chase begins, ending up in the la-di-da Royal Gate Hotel.
Chloe Grace Moretz, pictured with the animated stars of the movie Tom and Jerry, plays a small time girl adrift in New York city who cons a hotel manager into hiring her
To keep her job in the swanky hotel she has to rid the building on one particular rodent, Tom, who is tasked with catching Jerry, left
In the meantime, Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) – a small-town girl adrift in the city – cons the gullible hotel manager, Mr Dubros (Rob Delaney), into hiring her. But the pompous head of the events team, Terence (Michael Pena), is not quite so enamoured.
If she is to keep her ill-gotten job, Kayla must succeed in an important task ahead of the big wedding. There’s a rodent infestation in the hotel. Well, one impudent mouse, anyway. To get rid of Jerry, who is ‘holed up’ on the tenth floor, she needs Tom’s help.
Mr Dubros agrees to add the cat to the payroll, giving him a bell-hop’s cap and a name badge. But when the job is done and Jerry appears to have been seen off, the management have to work out how to let Tom go ‘without triggering an equal employment issue’.
There are plenty of wry nods like that to modern life, including selfies, hip-hop music and even biodegradable poo bags once Spike the bulldog (voiced by Bobby Cannavale) has entered the fray. Yet traditionalists can rest easy; the film does not swerve any of the slapstick violence for which Tom and Jerry have been celebrated since 1940. The hapless cat in particular needs at least double his nine lives.
There are plenty of wry nods like that to modern life, including selfies, hip-hop music and even biodegradable poo bags once Spike the bulldog (voiced by Bobby Cannavale) has entered the fray
It could very well be that the filmmakers were influenced by the Shaun The Sheep Movie from 2015, which also chronicled a series of animal misadventures in a busy city. There are a few parallels too striking to overlook, but let me add (and I hope you’ll forgive me) that Shaun and his chums set an extremely high baa. This picture never comes close to reaching it. Nevertheless, what it lacks in charm it makes up for in energy. The human cast, led wonderfully by Moretz, do a really top-notch comic job, aided by some genuinely funny one-liners and a handful of excellent visual gags – including one that should draw a cheer from anyone who remembers the board game Mousetrap. It was also a small master stroke to animate not just Tom and Jerry but all of New York’s animal life.
For the eagle-eyed, this means sightings of other old cartoon favourites such as Droopy the dog and Goldie the Goldfish plus a pair of elephants, Cecil and Malcolm – hired so the bride and groom can arrive in style riding on their backs – who are somewhat improbably voiced by ITV presenters Kate Garraway and Ben Shephard. ‘OMG, is that a mouse?’ remarks Cecil, or maybe Malcolm, before all hell breaks loose in the hotel ballroom.
Will all this delight every diehard fan of the classic Hanna-Barbera shorts? Probably not. However, if it brings families in lockdown some welcome collective fun – which I think it will – then the octogenarian cat and mouse have done their jobs.
Tom & Jerry: The Movie is available on most major digital platforms from tomorrow.