There is so much wrong with Tom and Jerry: The Movie and so little that feels faithful to the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon that it’s not an overreaction to call it one of (if not the) worst adaptations of a TV show ever made.
Let’s start with the obvious: Tom and Jerry should’ve never been granted the ability to speak. Richard Kind and Dana Hill, respectively, don’t fit the voices of the titular characters. But who would? Tom and Jerry‘s original run in the 1950s culminated with over 100 shorts and continued with various spinoffs and made-for-TV specials. All worked well enough without giving the characters any dialog outside of grunts and exclamations. Giving them the ability to speak renders the comedy less situational and more beholden to plot, which is evident in how the human characters overtake the iconic cat and mouse duo in prominence.
But onto the plot: Tom’s owners are moving to a new home, but in his pursuit of Jerry, he is left behind with his mortal enemy. The house is demolished the following day, rendering the duo homeless. They seek refuge in an alleyway when they meet a stray pup and his best friend, a flea, and both discover one another’s ability to speak. Tom and Jerry eventually meet Robyn (Anndi McAfee), a runaway girl whose mother died and whose father is allegedly in Tibet. Her unscrupulous aunt and her shady lawyer (humorously named “Lickboot”) are granted custody, and Robyn is their ticket to obtaining her parents’ fortune. Without many options, Tom and Jerry band together to save Robyn and reunite her with her father.
It’s fair to suggest an 80 minute Tom and Jerry chase sequence would’ve grown tiresome before the halfway point. However, it’s a greater offense to make a Tom and Jerry movie where so much of the runtime is eaten up by a bland little girl and her rotten, caricatured aunt. The duo quickly become ancillary accessories to their own movie, where moments of fast-paced camaraderie — such as the opening 10 minutes — remind us of the irresistible charm these two have endeared in audiences of all ages.
But beyond the unforgivable decision to gift Tom and Jerry voices, and the misguided plot, nothing about Tom and Jerry: The Movie resonates with a viewer looking for an enjoyable piece of entertainment. The musical numbers infrequently sprinkled into the storyline are meandering holdups with instantly forgettable lyrics. The animation style is uninspired (consider Pixar would storm on the scene barely three years later). Plus the idea of Tom and Jerry working together is total hokum. There’s a reason this film has gone on to live an ignominious fate following a disastrous box office performance. Not even young children should be subjected to its failings.
Voiced by: Richard Kind, Dana Hill, Anndi McAfee, Charlotte Rae, and Tony Jay. Directed by: Phil Roman.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!