Tom and Jerry

Nostalgia can absolutely be a factor when viewing a movie. Millions of children grew up watching Tom & Jerry cartoons after school. I was one of them. The comic mayhem of the cat and mouse duo drew inspiration from the works of the greatest silent comedians. The humorous situations in which they found themselves built layer upon layer, continually upping the ante in their never-ending war against one another. It's never going to get added to the National Film Registry, but I found the new Tom and Jerry movie cheerful and funny. It reminded me of what I loved about the characters growing up.

The story purports to show how the two met. Tom pretends to be blind and plays piano in Central Park for tips. Jerry ruins his show one day, leading to a chase. They end up at a posh hotel, where both decide to stay. Chloe Grace Moretz plays Kayla, a young scammer who cons the hotel manager, Mr. Dubros (Rob Delaney), into giving her a job. As it turns out, the wedding of high-profile couple Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) and Ben (Colin Jost) is coming up and events manager Terence (Michael Pena) could use some help preparing. Ken Jeong plays Jackie, the hotel chef who's already stressing out.

You can guess what happens from here. Tom and Jerry make their presences known and threaten to ruin the wedding. Kayla has to prevent that from happening so she can hold on to her job. Actually, she views Jerry as the problem and hires Tom to get rid of the little rodent. In an amusing twist, Terence is jealous of Kayla's sudden popularity with Mr. Dubros, leading to a feud between them. They have their own Tom/Jerry dynamic.

The animated hijinks are very much in line with what the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons delivered. Tom gets a bowling ball dropped on him, Jerry gets packed in a crate and sent overseas, and so on. Putting them inside a hotel proves to be a clever touch, as it gives the characters a new setting to create destruction. One of the wildest scenes finds them inadvertently tearing apart a fancy suite with their fighting. In some cases, the movie updates the humor, putting modern-day gizmos like cell phones and a motorized skateboard into the toons' paws.

Tom and Jerry mixes animation and live-action nicely. This isn't like 1992's Cool World where the cartoons don't feel like they're in the same space as the humans. The movie is funnier for that reason. Also funny is how everyone just accepts that animated animals share the city with real people. Acknowledging that would have ruined the joke. Sharp-eyed fans will notice a number of in-jokes, as well. I spotted references to Droopy Dog (always my favorite) that cast him as two of the most notorious cinematic villains of all time.

Tom and Jerry devotes a significant amount of time to the plot threads involving Kayla and the engaged couple. That yields mixed results. Preeta is having some pre-wedding jitters, as Ben is intent on adding spectacular new elements to the ceremony. You can see where this subplot is going long before it gets there. Scenes with Kayla trying not to get fired – and attempting to wrangle Tom and Jerry – fare much better. Moretz displays a real gift for slapstick comedy, giving hilariously exasperated expressions and skillfully interacting with a cat and mouse who aren't really there.

Tom and Jerry reminded me of Pokemon Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog. All three offer kids goofy antics featuring characters they love without alienating the adults. As one of those adults, seeing these old friends again was nice. The movie is good-natured energetic fun.


out of four

Tom and Jerry is rated PG for cartoon violence, rude humor and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.