Kayla Forester (Chloe Grace Moretz) has recently arrived in Manhattan, fleeing her go-nowhere hometown in Pennsylvania. She’s determined to finally do something with her life, spurred on by the feeling that there are other people who are just as young as she is but who have already managed to get their lives together. She doesn’t have much work experience but she has endless ambition and she’s also willing to lie, cheat, and steal if it means finding a better life.
Tom Kat (played by himself) is an aspiring pianist and creator of ludicrously elaborate mouse traps who finds his ambitions hampered by the fact that he’s a cartoon cat who can’t talk and who has a habit of getting involved in elaborate mishaps. Even his attempts to make a meager living by playinf piano in Central Park are continually thwarted by all of the other cartoon animals that are lurking around New York City. (“Look!” a little boy announces, “that cat’s playing a piano!” His father explains that it’s common to see all sorts of strange things in New York.)
Jerry Mouse (playing himself) is Tom’s longtime rival. A cartoon mouse who is also a plucky kleptomaniac, Jerry has recently arrived in Manhattan. He’s looking for a home and he wastes no time in reigniting his decades old feud with Tom and, of course, engaging in countless acts of petty thievery.
Together, they solve crimes!
Well, no, actually, they don’t. Instead, they commit a few. Kayla gets things started by stealing someone else’s resume and getting a job working at a luxury hotel. Under the mistrustful eye of event manager Terence Mendoza (Michael Pena), Kayla tries to make sure that two celebrities, Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda ), have the perfect wedding in the hotel’s ballroom. Despite being in no way qualified for her job, Kayla proves to be a quick learner and she even manages to deal with the hotel’s temperamental head chef, Jackie (played, somewhat inevitably, by Ken Jeong). The only problem is that Jerry has moved into the hotel as well. Realizing that a mouse could ruin the entire wedding, Kayla hires Tom to track the little rodent down. Tom and Jerry better work out their differences before the wedding because Ben and Preeta are scheduled to ride two cartoon elephants down the aisle and you know how elephants feel about mice!
Tom & Jerry is a hybrid film, a mix of live action and animation. New York City is real. All of the human characters are played by actual humans. However, every single animal — from the title characters to the elephants to Ben’s bulldog to the pigeons that fly over Central Park and provide a chorus to the action — is a 2D cartoon character. It’s actually a pretty cute idea and, to the film’s credit, it doesn’t waste anyone time with elaborate excuses for why this is. Everyone in the film simply accepts that they live in a world with cartoon animals. No one is particularly surprised with Kayla hires a cartoon cat to take care of the cartoon mouse problem.
Tom & Jerry works whenever it focuses on the title characters. It’s actually a lot of fun to watch the two of them chasing each other through a live action New York City and never suffering any injuries regardless of how many mallets they hit each other with. Unfortunately, the film slows down whenever it focuses on the human characters. Chloe Grace Moretz is one of the best actresses of her generation and it’s always nice to see her playing a character who isn’t being stalked or having to deal with some sort of unimaginable tragedy but still, Kayla’s story is never really interesting enough to justify taking the focus away from Tom and Jerry. For most of the movie, poor Michael Pena gets stuck playing the film’s designated villain, even though Terrence is basically just doing his job. In the end, of course, everyone learns an important lesson and they’re all the better for it but most viewers would probably trade the lesson for more of the mouse and the cat.
Still, whenever it’s just Tom and Jerry doing their thing, this is a cute movie. I just wish the movie hadn’t gotten bogged down with everything else.