"Tom and Jerry" are two of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time. Since their debut in 1940, they've become synonymous animated cat and mouse duo with their violent mayhem, crazy slapstick, and hilarious chases that lead to some of the greatest animated shorts of the 1940s and 50s and put William Hanna and Joseph Barbera on the map as animated talents which they would show on television in the next few decades. Since the original shorts run ended in 1958, many have tried to put their own spin on the cat and mouse duo that have ranged from being pretty good to pretty bad, and without a doubt, one of their lowest moments was "Tom and Jerry: The Movie" from 1992. This is a film that has so many odd decisions and wrong choices that it all leads to a baffling experience and a film that's just insane. It's easily one of the most misguided animated films ever made.
When Tom (Richard Kind) and Jerry (Dana Hill) are accidentally left behind by their old owner and left out on the street, they end up wandering into a dog named Puggsey (Ed Gilbert) and his flea companion Frankie who tell them to put their differences aside and be friends. After a while, the duo ends up running into a runaway orphan named Robyn (Anndi McAfee) who's father was presumed dead when killed during a mountain expedition in Tibet and has been placed under the care of her evil guardian Pristine Figg (Charlotte Rae) who is obsessed with money alongside her lawyer Lickboot (Tony Jay). When the duo gets to Robyn's house, they discover through eavesdropping on Figg that Robyn's father is still alive and prepare to help the young girl reunite with her father before Figg locks them up.
This is such a puzzling animated film. Every time I see this film, I just scratch my head and laugh as I wonder what some of the creative decisions were behind this film. This film was directed by Phil Roman, who previously animated for Chuck Jones and also directed a handful of classic "Peanuts" specials as well as some "Garfield" specials, and Joseph Barbera was even brought on board as a creative consultant. I think the two men are both animation masters, but I have no idea what happened on this film. The biggest problem is easily the story which just doesn't feel like a "Tom and Jerry" film. It does start off okay but goes downhill once the characters meet Pugsley and Frankie. The film decides to trade the hilarious slapstick and violence for a musical about helping a young orphan girl which is as far removed from "Tom and Jerry" as you can get. It feels more like a ripoff of a Disney film you would find in the 90s and copies many elements from other films. The film that it's obviously trying to be like is "The Rescuers" and has so many elements that were taken straight out of this film that it just felt so uninspired. The film also builds to a crazy chase scene with a riverboat which in retrospect doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you think about it and a climax so unoriginal and boring that I was left stunned by how anticlimactic it felt. Even the way the villains were defeated was underwhelming. It's also bothered me that the original owner of Tom at the beginning of the film disappears and never comes back again. In fact, a better plot for this film would be the duo trying to get back to their original owner while encountering crazy shenanigans. That would've led way for the violent mayhem present in the original cartoons. A lot has also been said about the controversial decision to have Tom and Jerry, who were mostly silent in the original cartoons, talk in the film. I don't have a problem with the characters talking, but I am bothered by some of the decisions that had them talking in this film. Indeed, most of the time Tom and Jerry didn't talk in the original cartoons, but they did on a handful of occasions. However, whenever they did talk in the original shorts, it was always on the purpose of a joke with a hilarious payoff. Take for example a scene in the short "The Zoot Cat" where Tom is trying to serenade a female cat by talking about how she set his soul on fire while Jerry is quite literally burning his foot up with a match. In this film, I guess the filmmakers had the two talk because they thought a film couldn't be carried by two mostly silent protagonists which is a lousy excuse given the number of silent films and characters that had personalities without dialogue. Look at Charlie Chaplin's Tramp for instance. The biggest problem I have with the duo talking in the film though is the voices picked out for them. While I do have massive respect for Richard Kind and Dana Hill, I think they were completely miscast in the roles. Every time I heard them talk, I kept hearing Bing Bong from "Inside Out" and Max from "Goof Troop" and not Tom and Jerry. With that said, I do still like that they kept the writers kept both of their personalities intact with Tom being slightly cocky and easily annoyed and Jerry being mischievous and playful. I wish the other characters were as interesting in this film, but they're not. Robyn is a boring orphan girl who is kind and sweet, and Figg and Lickboot are watered-down versions of Madame Medusa and Snoops from "The Rescuers" that are both driven by money. In fact, there are more villains in this film and they're also driven by money. It's about the laziest villain motivation you can get. There's also not much to say about Pugsley and Frankie either as they're just there in the film, but don't stand out at all. I also find it odd that none of the other Tom and Jerry characters except for a small Droopy cameo appeared in the film. I also found the music in this film completely wrong. While I do love Henry Mancini, his music felt completely out of place for this film as well as the songs he wrote as well. They just didn't stand a candle to the original manic music of Scott Bradley from the original cartoons. If there is one thing I do think works about the film, it's the animation. It really looks exactly like the original MGM shorts with the colors and the character animation and I still think it holds up all these years later. It really does look exceptional. I just wish the story and characters worked with it.
"Tom and Jerry: The Movie" is a huge misstep of a film. Despite the animation looking and feeling like the original shorts, the story is generic and doesn't feel like a Tom and Jerry film, and the characters are standard and basic with no traits standing out about them. This is such a puzzling film and it's a good example of how not to make an animated film based on a TV show or short films. In all, it's a film that just doesn't work.