I laughed twice during the 101 minute runtime of Tom and Jerry: Once in disbelief over the rapping pigeons who open the film with a version of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” in borderline racist Dumbo crow fashion, and the other when a character admitted to committing white collar crime. Ugh.
But then, this isn't the first time we've been burned by the angry animated cat and his outrageously violent mouse frenemy. In 1992, Tom and Jerry: The Movie released. It broke the cardinal sins of having the two speak and relegating them to the background—this iteration repeats the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea of giving real-life humans Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña (neither of whom are bad actors, but who have the charisma of sandpaper here) the main story and pushing the animated stars to the side. How, Kevin Costello, did you write this? And why? You can try to hide behind writing creds for William Hanna and Joseph Barbera on IMDb, but we still know what you did. It's especially alarming given that your 2017 film Brigsby Bear at least had a cool central idea (look it up).
In Tom and Jerry, though, there's a "how do you do, fellow kids?" tone throughout, especially in its constant and painful rap jamz. See also an electric scooter chase, Tom and Jerry drinking booze, thinking in emojis and setting up an Instagram page together; dialogue is mainly complaints about millennials; Colin Jost's prehistoric jawline is present.
We might argue kids are easily entertained, but here's the thing—we can't say Tom and Jerry is actually for kids. It requires knowledge of economic angst, Gen-Z humor, media criticism and even Bollywood to grasp the basic movements of the plot.
In the end, Tom and Jerry isn't bad because it's a derivative property. It's bad because it's disingenuous and has no interest in entertaining kids. It feels like a dad trying to hang out with his kid's college-aged friends. Your children will hate you if you try to pass this off on them, and they should. Oh, and don't think we don't see you, director Tim Story. You made Barbershop, man…shouldn't you know better? Maybe cinema should die after all.
+ Mercifully ends
– Ugly and loud; the duo don't even drive the plot
Tom & Jerry
Directed by Tim Story
With Tom, Jerry, and Chloë Grace Moretz
HBO Max, PG, 101 min.