27 November 2012 | TheUnknown837-1
Despite its promising start and good drawing, "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" is an absolute thud
The surmounting lists of objections to "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" have been understandably consistent: the famous cartoon cat and mouse actually start talking, they go on good behavior, do not chase each other around with every makeshift club or projectile known, and most of the narrative consists not of what we usually get from them in a seven or eight-minute cartoon. I had some objections to the material here as well, but only on this level: the way it was done. In actuality, I am all for the idea of trying something new with these characters, even if they had been doing the same stuff for forty-some years. After all, if the movie's going to the last 90 minutes, unless the filmmakers really know what they're doing, just seeing the cat and mouse torment each other will lose its spark eventually. So I'm marginally grateful they tried something new.
The opening ten minutes of "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" effectively capture the charm of the long-running cartoon shorts, utilizing silent humor and cartoon violence to a gut-splitting max. It's also fun looking at the drawing style, reminiscent of the 1960s where everything exists without excessive detail. The houses are one or two stories, have a single tree in the yard, and surrounded by a white picket fence. And when Tom and Jerry venture into the streets, there is a wonderful, 1960s feeling in the jazz music score playing in the background.
What I did not like after this point was not the new ideas, but—and this goes back to my initial statement—the way these new ideas were executed. I do like the tone of the voices given to Tom and Jerry, with the latter being given a sort of husky, little boy tone, just as I always imagined him. I always pictured Jerry as a little kid and Tom as sort of a twenty-something who never quite grew up. And I did not mind so much that the plot unravels to become more of a "The Rescuers" remake, with the cat and mouse befriending an orphan girl wanting to escape the clutches of her domineering aunt. In fact, if Tom and Jerry had stuck with the girl, and been allowed to take center-stage more often, the idea could have worked. Instead, they end up playing second-fiddle, disappearing for obnoxiously long stretches of time, and the little girl, Robyn (though sweetly voiced by the talented Anndi McAfee) is a complete bore.
As a result, the story becomes insufferably slow starting around the thirty-minute mark.
What I could not stand at all in this movie—the one thing I thought could not work in the least bit—were the songs. I personally do not connect musical numbers with a Tom and Jerry cartoon, even if it is feature-length. But the crushing blow is just how incredibly awful these musical numbers are, and how they become progressively worse as the movie progresses. The first one, in which Tom and Jerry are unsuccessfully talked into trying to be friends, is lame and bad enough as it is. The second one, following much too closely afterward and sung by a gang of not-amusing alley cats who stop the story cold in its tracks, is even worse. The remaining count of songs, if memory serves me correct, is three or four. Each one the cognitive equivalent of sandpaper being rubbed on your scalp. Even if these songs were bland and not horrendous, they would still drag the movie to its doom because there are so many—too many. Even most musicals don't plant this many sing-a-longs in such narrow proximity to each other.
Now, in all fairness, the drawing style is beautiful. It effectively captures the spirit of the 1960s cartoons while updating it at the same time. The colors are vibrant and pretty, everything has a lot of gorgeous detail, the movements seem old-fashioned and yet contemporary at the same time—if that makes any sense to the reader; you really need to see the movie to understand (or just look at some silent clips of it, as I would recommend). The director was Phil Roman, who made his fame in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s in continuing the animated "Peanuts" cartoons after Bill Melendez decided to stop. He's got a good style, knowing how to pace shots and sequences. But it all goes back to what Pauline Kael, John Huston, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, and so many other movie critics and filmmakers have said about directors and screenplays: the latter is, in so many ways, more important. The director can have as much style as he wants, but without an interesting story and some firm ground to walk on, no matter his still, the picture will probably end up collapsing. And despite its promising start and good drawing, "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" is an absolute thud.