PG, for nonstop violence towards animated animals. Like, the entire thing justifies the Itchy and Scratchy parody without the blood. It's just silly hijinks of two animated characters trying to hurt each other for the majority of the film. It is a kids' movie and there isn't much in terms of questionable content besides the hour-and-a-half of cartoon violence. But that's just what is going on. You knew what you signed up for. PG.
DIRECTOR: Tim Story
It's my fault. I'm the one who said that he wanted to watch this. There's a bunch of stuff leading into today's blog, so I think I'm just going to dump them all here. I'm writing against the clock because it is my week on parking lot duty. Also, I have all of these fancy-schmantzy, artsy-fartsy movies coming up soon, so to discover that I'm writing about Tom and Jerry to start the week is a bit of a bummer. But like I said, this is all my fault.
I suppose it is the knowledge that it is going to be on HBO Max for 30 days and I don't have to pay to see it at the movie theater. There was a time in my life that I would simply drive to the movie theater and watch whatever was playing next, assuming I hadn't seen it already. Our local theater had $5.00 matinees and I certainly took advantage of that deal. But here I am, trying to relive the glory days. The irony, of course, was that my glory days never really involved Tom and Jerry.
Oh, I know that is sacrilege in a lot of circles. Tom and Jerry was a lot of people's childhoods. For all my love of Looney Tunes and Disney products, Tom and Jerry was always super annoying to me. This is probably true for a lot of things that people find defining of their childhoods. Tom and Jerry, Transformers, Scooby-Doo? Nothing. None of things interested me in the least. So what was it about the trailer for Tom and Jerry, besides the fact that it would be free on HBO Max, that made me want to watch this? I blame Sonic the Hedgehog.
When I saw the trailer for Sonic, I wondered what abomination had man created? I mean, sure, Sonic was still in his original design. But even shy of a terrible design, the movie just looked bad. But then, because of my son's insistence (by the way, I just heard that he's being a monster today, so I don't know what to do about that), we saw it and that was a joyful surprise. Yeah, it's not like Sonic the Hedgehog was a masterpiece, but it certainly was a good time. And when I saw the trailer for Tom and Jerry, I thought it would be just that: a good time.
Yeah, I was wrong. I don't know why I ignored everyone along the way. There wasn't exactly any glowing recommendations for it. Even my kids were lukewarm about watching it. My son liked it, which is fine. It's just that Tom and Jerry didn't really offer anything that would make me interested in the piece as a whole. From a superficial perspective, the movie is about a cat and mouse combination that I never cared about. The jokes often are flat and there are a bunch of disparate plots that somehow are supposed to coalesce into a single narrative. That doesn't really happen. It's actually bizarre, because the mute Tom and Jerry (I don't know why they are the only cartoon animals who don't talk) don't really seem to be the protagonists in their own film. It's a bit too childish and I feel like we've covered everything in this movie in other forms.
But there is something that really confuses me about the film as a whole: the avoidance of Blackness. This is going to get really dicey because I'm a thirty-something white male writing from the safety of a blog while the director, Tim Story, is a Black man who is straight up movies regularly. He's doing what I wish I could be doing. (I love being a teacher and writing is a hobby now; all this should be taken into consideration.) But Tim Story seems to keep coming back to the same problems. He keeps making movies starring white people that don't really need to be white. I know Tim Story from Fantastic Four and its sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the SIlver Surfer. I know that he directed Shaft as well, which both breaks up my theory while confirming it at the same time. But with Tom and Jerry, the titular characters are mute cartoons. They are, by definition, devoid of race. But the other characters are complete wild cards. Anyone can play the other roles and be okay. Instead, we only have a smattering of ethnicities in the roles and white people with upper middle class problems seem to dominate this film.
But Story seems like he wants to do more with it. The soundtrack is peppered with hip hop. Cool. There are Black people in this role. But that's where it really gets weird. There are a lot of Black artists in this movie: voicing characters that don't reflect race at all. Every single Black actor in this movie is voicing an animated character. Is there a reason that you have to do a deep dive to find the Black people doing things behind the anonymity of animated. It kind of feels like they are being written out. When I think of Fantastic Four, that movie seems remarkably white. It is the safest version of those characters imaginable. When I think of Shaft, I think of someone who wanted to tell this tale, but decided to fall back on stereotypes. Is Tim Story, I hate to say, someone who is the acceptable Black director for a white audience?
I know, I'm getting pretty heavy with Tom and Jerry. But it seems like Tim Story keeps getting these ultra-nonconfrontational jobs where he simply makes what anyone else can make. There's nothing special or challenging about this film. Instead, we have Chloe Grace-Moretz, a talented actress in her own right, going through a color-by-numbers kids' comedy that dares not do anything that would upset the apple cart. It's so vanilla that when I hear a hip-hop soundtrack attached to zany madcap antics, it feels like an old man trying to relate to his grandkids. The music doesn't at all make me want to think of anything except for selling toys and HBO Max subscriptions. I want something real and aggressive. Just because a movie is aimed at kids, it doesn't mean that it has to be one thing that is easy to write off. That's what's happening with this movie. It really begs you not to think. It wants parents to buy a crapton of candy and soda and hope that the kids are grateful for an afternoon with their parents.
Yeah, I don't know what I would do with Tom and Jerry. But I know that I wouldn't hide every Black actor behind animation cells. I know that I wouldn't have an almost exclusively white cast, with the exception of Michael Pena or Pallavi Sharda, just because they might be more marketable. It's just uncomfortable the more I think about it. And, yeah, I feel like a White Knight, but that's kind of the vibe I got by watching those end credits and realizing that every Black voice was covered up by animation cells.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.