REVIEW

Tom and Jerry brings the characters back in a live-action/CGI movie

Tom and Jerry G. 101 minutes. 1 star.

For a property with a very simple premise - cat versus mouse - the Tom and Jerry franchise has proved to be amazingly durable. There were more than 100 cartoons in Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera's original theatrical series, produced for MGM between 1940 and 1958, seven of which won Oscars for best animated short film.

Since then there have been other theatrical cartoons, multiple TV shows, comic books, video games and more - including feature films. Tom and Jerry seldom spoke.

I haven't seen the fully animated Tom and Jerry: the Movie (1992) - in which the characters spoke, which was rare in the earlier films. In the new Tom and Jerry, they have no dialogue, just yells and screams and other noises - apparently taken from the soundtracks of older cartoons. Oddly though, they can write - and most of the other animals in the movie speak.

These incongruities go unexplained, as does the motivation for making the film (the earlier effort was apparently unsuccessful). We've seen quite a few feature films based on old cartoon characters like Yogi Bear,The Smurfs and Felix the Cat and most suffer from the same problem that afflicts many films based on Saturday Night Live characters: characters and situations that can be amusing in small doses usually cannot sustain interest for the length of a feature film.

Jerry and Tom in Tom and Jerry. Picture: Warner Bros

Jerry and Tom in Tom and Jerry. Picture: Warner Bros

That's one of the problems here. Tom and Jerry's characters are one-dimensional as well as silent and their incessant conflict is simply not inventive enough to maintain interest for long. There are some callback gags for the T&J devotee and one impressively elaborate trap, but the cartoon violence - including a lot of head trauma - becomes numbing after a while. And the story involving the human characters is simply not very interesting.

In the beginning, Tom, an aspiring musician, is playing his keyboard in New York's Central Park for tips when Jerry - who's looking for a new home - distracts the cat's audience by dancing along to the music. Mayhem, predictably, ensues during which Tom's keyboard is broken. It doesn't really create any sympathy for Jerry (predators seldom get much love even when their targets are insufferable: am I the only one who always wanted Tom to devour Jerry and Wile E. Coyote to eat that damn Road Runner?)

While Tom is chasing Jerry, go-getting Kayla (played by Chloe Grace Moretz, who, like the other impressively diverse cast members, deserves better) cons her way into a job at the posh Royal Gate Hotel using an impressive - pilfered - resume.

She's come when the hotel is preparing to host the social event of the season, the wedding of Preeta Mehta (Australian Pallavi Sharda, seen in Lion) and Ben (Colin Jost, also in Coming 2 America). Event manager Terence (Michael Pena) is dubious but general manager Henry (Rob Delaney) is impressed and she is hired.

Jerry has taken up residence at the hotel and Kayla hires Tom to get rid of him. Naturally, this leads to escalating amounts of chaos and destruction. Meanwhile, Preeta is having second thoughts about the wedding - who could blame her when her fiance is the blandest character in the movie and seems determined to make things as big as possible despite her wishes?

Jerry in Tom and Jerry. Picture: Warner Bros

Jerry in Tom and Jerry. Picture: Warner Bros

Ken Jeong (the Hangover movies) does his thing as the harried chef - he works best in small doses, as he's used here - and he and the other actors try, but can't overcome the unimpressive script by Kevin Costello and often don't seem fully integrated with the cartoon animals.

The animation is CGI but its look - presumably the choice of director Tim Story (the mid-2000s Fantastic Four movies) is old-fashioned, mostly "flat". It might be a homage to the old days but it looks and feels dated.

There are a couple of good blink-and-you'll-miss-them gags involving another MGM cartoon veteran, the phlegmatic Droopy - one during the opening credits - and even a nod to TV cartoon character Secret Squirrel. But unless you're very nostalgic, they aren't enough to compensate for the prevailing air of frenetic tedium.

The gag at the very end of the credits isn't worth waiting for - it's mean-spirited and doesn't even involve Tom and Jerry. If the characters are to be revived again, it should be where they began: in shorts.

This story Cat and mouse tale is unappealing first appeared on The Canberra Times.