Platform diving/Opinion

Stop making 'Tom and Jerry' movies

After 80 years, is it time to retire Tom and Jerry? Our columnist thinks maybe so.

As with most children in America, I grew up watching cartoons. Unlike most adults in America, I continue to love them. The earliest cartoons I can remember watching as a kid were "Little Bear" and "Tom and Jerry."

Little Bear only came on once a day when I was a kid (as part of Nick Jr.), but Tom and Jerry used to run more often. Seemed like those reruns were on Cartoon Network all the time when I was growing up. So I spent many hours of my youth watching these two do things to each other that would absolutely kill them in real life. It was glorious.

What I didn't realize growing up was just how old the cartoon I enjoyed was. By the time I was 5 years old, "Tom and Jerry" was 55!

The series made its debut in 1940 as short films created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Thank God for those minds, or American cartoons today would look a lot different.

If you poked through my memories, you could probably find I have dozens and dozens of episodes memorized. Some of my favorite episodes include Tom inheriting a million dollars as long as he promises to never hurt another living creature (and Jerry tormenting him), or the one where Tom wants to rest on the hammock, and Spike wants to grill a steak for his child, but Jerry gets involved and makes a mess of everything.

Now that I've established I'm a big "Tom and Jerry" fan, allow me to stay something that seems contradictory. Studios need to stop making "Tom and Jerry" movies. They're all bad.

On Tuesday, a new trailer dropped for a bizarre "Tom and Jerry" movie that's partly live-action and partly animated. It's kind of like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" or those godforsaken "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movies.

The trailer seems to tell a story about Jerry moving into a fancy New York hotel and causing mischief by way of being a mouse in a high-end place. Apparently, a big wedding is getting ready to take place at the hotel, and Tom is hired to deal with Jerry.

If you're thinking the scenario sounds kind of weird (even for a cartoon), I don't blame you. I think this story is weird. In fact, every "Tom and Jerry" movie has a weird story. There was one feature-length film released in 1992 about a girl trying to escape abusive guardians and find her missing father. And there are 13 direct-to-video films about every random story from going to Mars to meeting Sherlock Holmes.

You know what all these movies have in common? They're all pretty bad stories that seem to have little to do with the original premise of a blue cat chasing an orange mouse.

The original cartoons all had somewhat normal stories, from Tom playing a string bass and trying to woo a female cat in the neighborhood to Tom trying to play golf and getting distracted by Jerry. Sure, things left the realm of normal sometimes (like when Tom went to Hell and had to get Jerry to forgive him so he could be let into Heaven), but the narrative didn't need to involve other properties like "The Wizard of Oz" (they made two movies out of that storyline).

And that's the biggest problem with any studios trying to make films with "Tom and Jerry." There's just not enough material there to fill 90 minutes without adding in something extra that has nothing to do with the original concept of a cat trying to catch a mouse.

The No. 1 thing fans love about "Tom and Jerry" is the slapstick humor and crazy violence that ensues as these cartoon rivals do everything they can to end each other. Whether Tom gets electrocuted or burned by an iron, or Jerry gets shot around a pool table, you're guaranteed laughs for eight to 12 minutes at a time.

This is why the original format for "Tom and Jerry" was short films. And it later moved to broadcast cartoons. That's where our favorite cat and mouse thrive.

But movie studios keep wanting to make movies out of aging cartoons for some reason. And they keep churning out pure crap, whether it's "The Smurfs," "Yogi Bear," or "Woody Woodpecker."

I guess it comes down to the money. Although they were cataract-inducing, "The Smurfs" and "Yogi Bear" actually performed well at the box office, thus encouraging studios to keep milking old properties and bringing them to the big screen. It's not all that different from Disney continuing to make terrible live-action adaptations of its popular animated movies. The money keeps rolling in, so they keep inflicting moviegoers with more of them.

What's that? They're making a live-action "Lion King" sequel? Hold on. I'm going to get my vodka so I can finish writing this article.


Where was I? Right. "Tom and Jerry" makes for an excellent cartoon, but an awful movie. I don't care that Michael Peña is attached to this new adaptation coming out next year. You know what else he was attached to? "Playing with Fire," a movie so appalling even Lucifer wouldn't inflict it on the lost souls of Hell.

I don't care that this forthcoming movie will have the composer from "Supernatural" attached to it (God, I already miss that series).

Watching the trailer, I can already tell "Tom and Jerry" will be nothing to look forward to. It'll probably have a lot of pop culture references that'll be dated over the next few years and trendy songs (instead of the instrumental score the old shorts had). I'll wager the film will include one or two slapstick gags that make me chuckle, but they'll be vastly overshadowed by an inferior and questionable plot that nobody on this planet asked for.

Supposedly the film will include archived recordings from William Hanna (the original voice of these characters in the few times they spoke), but I didn't hear anything familiar in the trailer. Tom has one really famous scream when he's being scalded by hot water or falls onto a bed of nails or is tormented in some other way. Anyone who grew up with the cartoons would recognize Tom's painful yell, and I didn't hear it once in the trailer. Same thing with Jerry's nervous swallow.

Shouldn't the trailer have had some immediately recognizable throwbacks to the old film shorts? I didn't spot any. Tom sounded atrocious in the preview.

I wish studios would stop trying to stretch this slapstick routine into full-length movies, crafting soulless creations to toss onto the trash heap that tarnishes this beloved franchise's legacy.