Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Special thanks to one of my real life friends (who I will refer to by his online persona: The Movie Meister) whose support for this blog earned him this request.
This blog's certainly taking an interesting turn today. I mean when running a media-based blog, you're going to have all sorts of things at your disposal to review and you have to be prepared for what people may ask for. For this post, I'm going to be reviewing, of all things, Tom and Jerry: The Movie!
(slaps forehead) NO! I mean the OTHER one!
First released in Germany back in 1992 and then released in the US in 1993, Tom and Jerry: The Movie ended up marking an...interesting point in animation history for both Tom and Jerry and animation as a whole. It was released around the beginning of the Disney Renaissance, which had started off with The Little Mermaid back in 1989 and continued to succeed with Beauty and the Beast in 1991 and Aladdin in 1992. It was clear at the start of the 90's that animated musicals were the big selling point so Tom and Jerry: The Movie was meant to cash in on the success of those properties back in the day. It....backfired to say the least. The film bombed hard by grossing a measly $3.6 million against a $3.5 million budget, was panned critically and has gone down in infamy as one of the most hated things to bear the famous cat and mouse comedy couple's names. And it seems Hollywood hasn't learnt its lesson that Tom and Jerry just DO NOT work in movies as they made another in 2021 which did perform a little better at the box office but was also critically derided. Goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same, am I right?
For those who may be curious, I am a HUGE Tom and Jerry fan. I grew up watching the old Hanna-Barbera shorts on Cartoon Network and Boomerang (back when those channels used to be worth watching) and would endure hours upon hours of laughter at their comical antics. I even grew up watching this movie whenever Cartoon Network would show it so I even have some level of nostalgia concerning this film. But just because I grew up with it, doesn't mean it's great of course and I'm not the kind of guy who lets nostalgia blind me towards the quality of a product.
So is Tom and Jerry: The Movie really as bad as fans and critics think it is? Or is this movie actually really underrated and deserves more love? Let's find out. I'm the Media Man and here is my review on Tom and Jerry: The Movie...
The plot of your average cartoon is "Tom and Jerry chase each other, cartoony slapstick violence happens and the two get hilariously pummelled for your amusement, The End". So how the heck do they stretch that into a movie? Eh...no idea. The movie itself certainly didn't succeed in that regard.
The story sees Tom and Jerry without a home thanks to it being demolished and thus they have to look out for themselves for the time being. However, they get roped into a scheme involving a young girl named Robyn Starling (hee, hee, get it?) who is trying to escape from her wicked Aunt Figg who is planning to keep her in custody so she can seize her father's trust fund and remain wealthy. The two must work together to save Robyn from her diabolical aunty.
Everybody has dissected this plot and pointed out the many, many problems it has. I'm inclined to agree on most of the criticisms here. First of all, this plot has NO business whatsoever being a Tom and Jerry movie. I mean think about it, if you took Tom and Jerry out of the film and had it focused on just Robyn and the others, would anything fundamentally change in the story? The only thing that would be different would be Robyn having different helpers to get her out of a sticky situation and even at that, you could have the movie be just Robyn on her own with no animal sidekicks to help her at all. That's how superfluous Tom and Jerry are in this movie. It's less a movie about them and more they get dragged into someone else's movie. For the first ten minutes or so it's about them but then Robyn comes in and it kinda stops being about them and feels more like it's about her instead. It really does feel like the first draft of the movie didn't have Tom and Jerry in it at all and they just hastily re-wrote it to include them. Sadly, later Tom and Jerry movies did NOT learn their lesson and this just proves my point on how Tom and Jerry only work in one medium: cartoon shorts. They are NOT characters that can carry a movie.
The plot itself is also painfully generic, even by 90's kids movie standards. I mean this plot of trying to save a girl from a money hungry relative is a plot that can barely fill in an episode of a TV series, let alone a movie and it's just so done-to-death at this point. And no, it being an animated kid's movie is no excuse. At the time this movie came out, we were at the beginning of the Disney Renaissance and their movies weren't anywhere near this formulaic! Because this plot can't fill in a movie, we naturally get a lot of filler moments like the musical numbers which feel more like padding than anything enjoyable and a bunch of extra villains that again feel like they're just there to fill up time than have anything useful to do, but I'll cover that in the character's section.
Also the trademark slapstick of Tom and Jerry, while present, feels way too downplayed here. We don't get much of it, whatever we do get feels very watered down and too tame to be funny and a lot of it doesn't even happen to Tom and Jerry themselves. How much funnier would this movie had been if they upped the slapstick some more and had some characters like Aunt Figg or Lickboot suffer amusing injuries throughout? Instead, it feels like "Tom and Jerry: The Boring Edition" and that it's missing one of the most important elements of the shorts.
Oh and then there's the infamous "Tom and Jerry talking" criticism. This is one I feel is being criticized for the wrong reasons. One: Tom and Jerry have spoken in the shorts before (Tom has especially talked NUMEROUS times) so why people have an issue with them speaking here is beyond me. No, the REAL criticism should be WHY do Tom and Jerry talk here? Whenever they spoke in the cartoons, it was for gag purposes, particularly this famous example. Here, it's not played for laughs at all and feels like it's there because the writers don't know how to write mute characters. The talking doesn't add anything to their characters or make them any funnier (especially as what they say isn't even that funny in the first place) and is ultimately just filler. You could take every piece of dialogue they say out the movie, keep them mute and once again, nothing would change. There was literally zero reason for them to speak here.
So the story is really bad, right? Well...mostly but I feel people exaggerate how bad it is. When you strip away the Tom and Jerry stuff, you're left with a generic kid's movie that doesn't do anything creative or unique with its concept. As is, there's nothing offensively bad about the story and it's not like the story feels utterly painful to sit through. It does have the occasional nice moments in there like Robyn's song and the first ten minutes at least tried to be a Tom and Jerry movie. Also the chase scene with Robyn, Tom, Jerry and the villains is at least entertaining and is the most fun part of the movie so it's not like this movie has nothing to enjoy at all. It's just they didn't do a good job on making a Tom and Jerry movie.
With this bland as hell plot that's trying too hard to be a Disney musical while also reducing Tom and Jerry to sidekicks in what's supposed to be THEIR movie, it's no wonder that people view this as a stain on their legacy...
With a generic story like this, don't expect the characters to make it any less so.
We have the titular cat-and-mouse duo, Tom and Jerry (voiced by Richard Kind and Dana Hill respectively). As mentioned before, they have no business being in this movie as it's not even about them. They're reduced to sidekicks helping Robyn escape from her evil aunt while having no development whatsoever. They're still enemies by the end of the movie so nothing changes for them. Their personalities also aren't strong enough to carry this movie either, even with voices. These two shouldn't even be here at all and the movie would've benefitted without their existence.
We have the real main character of the movie, Robyn Starling (voiced by a teenage Anndi McAfee). In another movie, she would've been just fine, if a bit generic as the kind-hearted nice kid who has to deal with a cruel relative. Here, she's systematic of the big problems this movie has in how it's supposed to be a Tom and Jerry movie, yet she pretty much hijacks the plot and makes it about her more so than the titular duo! Wouldn't this movie have been so much better if she was the primary character with no Tom and Jerry at all and she performs most of her escapes by herself with no help from any cute animal sidekicks? It would not only make her less of a load but also make her more interesting as we see she's quite capable for her age. Instead she's just the kid that Tom and Jerry need to rescue and is the prime example of how wasted they are in this movie.
The villains of this movie include Aunt Pristine Figg (voiced by Charlotte Rae) and her right-hand lawyer Lickboot (voiced by the always fabulous Tony Jay). Aunt Figg is your typical bland greedy villain with nothing to enjoy about her aside from Charlotte Rae's performance in where she puts in way more effort than she needed to for a role like this. She's also pretty useless when you think about it. Most of the scheming is left up to Lickboot, who himself is far more entertaining a villain than she is thanks to Tony Jay's charismatic performance and the character's snarky personality. But as a whole, these two are really dumb villains. I mean they want her father's money and will keep hold of it as long as they have Robyn with them and her father is dead. Yet it turns out he's alive and they're just like "Robyn must never know!" These two idiots do realize that keeping Robyn in the dark will mean jack-all in the end when her father inevitably gets back and she sees he's alive after all? The only way their schemes have even a chance of working would be to murder the guy before Robyn can find out he's alive, YET THAT THOUGHT NEVER CROSSES THEIR MINDS!!!! These morons were doomed to fail from the start and as a result, they're impossible to take seriously as villains because they're too stupid to be a real threat!
We also have other villains like Dr. Applecheeks and Captain Kiddie but let's face it, did they really need to be here? They're just eating up time that should've been spent on Tom and Jerry or Robyn and Captain Kiddie shouldn't even be a villain. He could've had more use by being an ally of Robyn's and helping her escape from Aunt Figg instead of trying to sell her out for an award he's never going to get. Making him evil just did nothing for this character in the end.
We also have Puggsey and Frankie, a pair of characters whom many resent for being the catalyst behind Tom and Jerry talking and becoming friends (except not really). They quickly lose relevance after their introduction scene and just disappear after they escape from Applecheeks save for one scene showing them on a train ride to who knows where. Honestly, they could've been left out of the movie and nothing much would change there.
With a cast like this where they're either bland, generic, misused, stupid or a waste-of-space, this movie has possibly one of the most ill-handled casts of characters I've ever seen in a film...
This is one of those movies where you look back on it years later and tell yourself "Wow, I don't remember the animation being this bad!"
No joke, the animation of this movie is practically TV movie quality, yet this was a movie that was released in cinemas back in the day. Not sure how they thought this was cinema quality but hey, life is full of mysteries. Now I'm going to make this clear, I'm NOT shaming any of the animators who worked on this movie. They did the best job they could with what they had to work with and they only had a small budget to work with. It's not their fault that they couldn't turn out the best work they could with this. I commend the animators for doing the best they could with what they had.
As is, this animation really is mediocre. First of all, the art-style is very inconsistent. I dunno if it's just me but there are numerous moments where it feels like the characters were drawn by different artists. There's a couple of times where Tom, Jerry and even Robyn seem to shift art-styles and it just looks distracting. What's more distracting is the character animation. It's clear that this was a rushed job because there's a lot of weird moments from the character animation. Some of the characters end up being off-model at many points throughout the film, there's a lot of weird facial expressions that look more awkward than anything and the character animation itself is mostly stiff at times. To put it simply, they hardly move like they're supposed to and it's not as smooth as could be. Even the slapstick moments feel weak as there's a lack of any real weight or impact to them. If the animators had a bigger budget and more time to work on this movie, they could've really nailed it.
There's also weird artistic choices like some scenes having shading applied to them and then most others have none whatsoever. And then you have scenes that are just downright bizarre like this one here! I mean...what the flying monkeys was that about?! Why did the storyboard artists structure it like that? Why did the animators draw it that way? Did they not realize how unintentionally creepy this scene comes off as out-of-context? They could've done that scene so much better but no, they had to make it look like that and give a lot of viewers less than savoury conclusions to come to upon viewing it!
The animation leaves a lot to be desired, but it's not completely terrible animation at least. The character designs are nice enough (when they're actually drawn well), Tom and Jerry look like themselves at least, the animation on the vehicles is actually really good such as Lickboot's car or the steamboat or Mr. Starling's helicopter and the backgrounds, as plain and basic as they are, are the most well-drawn things in the movie. The backgrounds feel immersive and give us the locations the characters are in very well be it the alleyway Tom and Jerry stumble into, the big mansion or Captain Kiddie's carnival. Again, they look pretty average as far as settings go but they are still well-drawn backgrounds at least. And as mentioned before, the chase scene with our heroes and villains is the best scene in the movie. It's mostly well-animated and is quite fun to watch from the high-speed action and how crazy it gets with everyone competing to catch Robyn first. If there's any scene the animators did the best work on, it's this one.
The animators did the best they could with the resources they had. It's just a pity that it still came out as pretty mediocre animation that's only just passable for television animation. With more money and time, the animation could've been truly spectacular...
If you need further proof this movie was trying to cash in on Disney's success back in the 90's, then the proof is in the pudding for this one as some crazy guy thought this movie should be a musical! Cause yeah, when I think of Tom and Jerry, I think musicals! (sarcasm) Granted, the original theatrical shorts would occasionally have musical moments in them but that was mostly for gag purposes whereas here, it's played completely straight. And the songs are...eh...something alright.
I'll give the movie credit that getting the legendary Henry Mancini (the man who gave us the iconic The Pink Panther theme) was a good idea. His musical contribution to the movie gives us some lovely instrumentals to listen, particularly during the opening credits, but the songs themselves don't hold up to the heights of the music. The biggest problem with the songs is that all of them have completely garbage lyrics that make them sound like they were being made up on the fly with some painfully forced rhymes (I mean come on, "So what the heck? Here's what we rec-ommend"?) and they all have a tendency to be pointless filler that comes and leaves just as quickly. And while not all of them are terrible, some of them are complete and utter cringe.
The first song is "Friends to the End", which is in the category of "enjoyably bad". The lyrics hold it back but the song itself is actually kind of fun with a memorable beat to it and has that showy Broadway style to it that makes it somewhat enjoyable.
Then we get "Why Do We Care" which is complete and utter filler. It starts completely randomly with some alley-cats threatening Tom and...just bursting into song completely unprompted. The song is catchy as all hell (seriously, I was still remembering this tune YEARS later after hearing it) but that doesn't make the song itself any good as, like all the others, the lyrics are utter trash and I'm just left asking what the hell that was all about.
Then we have "Money Is Such A Beautiful Word", a duet sung by Aunt Fig and Lickboot...and I HATE it. It is complete and utter cringe, especially as it ends with the two looking like they're about to kiss! Just no, that's gross! Don't ever do that again movie! X(
Next we have "God's Little Creatures", the most pointless song in the movie sung by Dr. Applecheeks. This song is such a waste of time that it barely even clocks in at a minute, no joke! I'll give it credit that the slow build-up to Applecheeks's true nature was pretty well done and how the song switches from a slow, calm melody to a much darker, faster paced tune once he reveals his true colours but again, why was it necessary to give this guy a musical number when it's such a waste of time?
And then we have by far the best (and I use that term loosely) song in the movie, "I Miss You", sung by Robyn. The lyrics once again are the Achilles Heel of the song but Anndi McAfee's beautiful vocals make the song at least nice to listen to as she mournfully sings about how much she misses her father. It's hard to believe that she was only 13 at the time she sang that number and it sounds this wonderful. It feels like she's the only cast member that's actually able to sing well and puts way more effort into her vocals than the song deserves.
And then we finish off with a song from Captain Kiddie called "I've Done It All". Once again, it's pointless filler that has no reason to be here. Why did Captain Kiddie need a musical number? Was it really THAT vital he had one? The song itself isn't sung too badly although it's mostly Kiddie doing the singing while his parrot hand puppet makes snarky commentary as if he's self-aware on how bad the number is. This song along with "Why Do We Care" and "God's Little Creatures" should've been dropped entirely.
The songs in this movie don't enhance the entertainment factor at all as they're more often than not pointless filler with so-so singing performances and lacklustre lyrics. They even stop after "I've Done It All", thus giving the impression that even the movie just gave up in the end. In a musical, they're supposed to be the highlight of the movie. Here, they're the low point and only serve as an example of how NOT to do a musical.
Not even all the nostalgia in the world can have me overlooking this film's shortcomings. Tom and Jerry: The Movie is a mediocre movie that shows why Tom and Jerry SHOULDN'T be in a movie. The plot is generic even by kid's movie standards, the characters are a collection of tropes instead of actual characters, the animation is laughably cheap and the songs are either a waste of time or completely cringeworthy. I may have enjoyed this film as a kid, but I'm sorry to say that my adult self can't feel the same way. I do think this movie is ridiculously over-hated though. Is it a bland kid's movie that stars Tom and Jerry? Yes. Is it an absolute piece of garbage that deserves all the scorn it gets? Not really. It's entertaining (mostly in ironic ways) at times and there's nothing offensively bad about it. It clearly did try at what it did, even if it failed. That's better than being a completely soulless cash grabber like some movies made today. It's just mediocre as a whole and is by far one of the lower moments of Tom and Jerry's careers. These two should've chased each other through something else instead of this movie...
And that's all I have for Tom and Jerry: The Movie. Did you like it or do you feel the same way I do? Feel free to share in the comments down below. Also again, major thank you to The Movie Meister for supporting me with this blog and requesting this post to be made. I may open myself up for future requests if anyone's interested. Join me next week as I review the fourth season of DC's Young Justice cartoon. See you then everyone!