Reel Opinions


Friday, February 26, 2021

Tom & Jerry


The makers of 2021's live action/animation hybrid Tom & Jerry movie avoid the key mistake that 1993's fully animated Tom & Jerry: The Movie made.  Namely, the previous film had the famous cartoon cat and mouse able to talk throughout almost the entire movie.  And no, giving the characters the gift of constant speech did not improve or add anything.  They remain mostly silent here, save for a few screams and yelps that seem to be sampled from the old cartoons from the 40s and 50s.  For this, fans will no doubt be grateful.

That being said, director Tim Story (2019's Shaft) and screenwriter Kevin Costello have made a lot of new mistakes here.  So many that the film will probably only be enjoyed by the smallest of children, or those with the least discriminating of tastes.  This movie ends up being a bizarre mix of bland cartoon-style slapstick that tries, and mostly fails, to recreate some of the classic gags as Tom the Cat and Jerry the Mouse chase one another through a luxury Manhattan hotel, and an even more bland story about a young woman trying to con her way into a job, which requires her to pull off an elaborate wedding for a power couple.  There are a lot of times when the movie feels like the Studio just took an old romantic comedy script that they had lying around somewhere, and then threw in some Tom and Jerry antics into it.  Needless to say, these elements don't quite mix, and the movie never comes to life in the roughly 100 minutes that it runs.

I understand that you need a lot of human characters and plot to fill up an entire movie to go with the cartoon fights and gags.  But why make the human elements so aggressively forgettable?  Have anyone who watches this film take a quiz about what happened and who these people are 24 hours after watching it, and they're sure to flunk.  That's because, despite a talented and game human cast, they're given nothing to work with.  20-something Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) lives in a New York City where all the animals are cartoon characters. (Something the movie never has as much fun with as it should.) She's out of work, so she manages to talk her way into a job at a ritzy hotel that is gearing up to hold a wedding for a couple that are on all the magazine covers, Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda).  She has no experience, but manages to swipe someone else's resume that impresses the hotel manager (Rob Delaney), who hires her on the spot.  The hotel's lead event planner Terence (Michael Peña) is suspicious of her skills, and aims to get rid of her.

At that same moment, both Tom and Jerry end up in Manhattan at the same time for reasons the movie doesn't clue us in on.  Tom wants to make it as a street performer, while Jerry is looking for a new home, and ends up moving into the hotel.  When it's learned that there is a very clever mouse disturbing the peace of the place, Kayla is placed in charge of getting rid of it.  She hires Tom to help her, and we're off and running on what should be some lively classic slapstick from the cat and mouse duo, but feels rather flat.  It's not just the fact that the human actors and cartoon characters never quite look right together.  So much so that the special effects sometimes looks like a demo of what a live action and cartoon hybrid could be.  It's also that the timing and the pacing of the gags are low energy.  They recreate some of the classic cartoon gags, and throw in small roles for some of the old supporting toon characters like Spike the Bulldog (voiced here by Bobby Cannavale).  But it never adds up to anything worthwhile.

Tom & Jerry would be bizarre if it weren't so boring.  There are a flock of cartoon pigeons who show up once in a while to provide a hip hop soundtrack for absolutely no reason, and play no part in the story.  There's a woman who works at the hotel named Joy (Patsy Ferran) whose sole character trait is that she likes to pop up out of nowhere and startle people.  Why?  Never explained.  She's not a weird or bad employee.  The movie just wanted to give her a quirky running gag, and it falls on its face.  There are also some oddly dated movie references thrown throughout the film, including 1989's Batman, The Silence of the Lambs and The Warriors.  But the most bizarre aspect is how the movie gradually seems to focus less on the cartoon stars, and more on the human relationships.  The soon to be wed couple are having problems, because he wants a big, lavish wedding with elephants and tigers, and she feels he doesn't listen to her.  Kayla also strikes a possible relationship with the hotel bartender who teaches her to be proud of herself and who she is.  That's great and all, but who watches a Tom and Jerry movie for this stuff?


Watching the film, I was reminded of 2010's largely forgotten and equally boring live action/animated take on Yogi Bear.  That was the movie that decided to put the cartoon bears, Yogi and Boo-Boo, increasingly in the background so that it could focus on the love life of Ranger Smith.  Both films make the exact same mistakes.  Neither fully understand what made the original cartoons enjoyable, both get largely distracted with unnecessary outside elements, and both are bad ideas that probably should have been rejected scripts.

0 comments

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Our Friend


Our Friend
is an imperfect film that also manages to be one of the most honest looks at cancer, and the effect it can have on the family, not just the patient.  All too often, the disease is used as a plot device, or as a reliable tearjerker method. (See just about any movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel.) Here, we get a vision more grounded in reality.  There are no lengthy bedside farewells, there are no moments where the survivors learn life lessons from the experience, and there is no deep meaning.  It's simply an honest look at what happens when a loved one is going to be taken away well before their time.  It's frustrating, angering and brutal, and that's what this movie gets.

It's not surprising the film is so honest, as its source of inspiration is an essay written by Matthew Teague about the death of his wife, and the friend who helped both him and his daughters cope with the process of the illness.  Here, Matt is portrayed by Casey Affleck, as a man who clearly loves his wife Nicole (Dakota Johnson) and two little girls, but sometimes has a hard time showing it.  He's a journalist who is usually sent away covering stories, and it's obviously taken a toll on his family.  Nicole tells him at one point she feels like a single mother sometimes, and when his oldest daughter finds out her mother is going to die, she bluntly tells him her biggest fear is that he is going to be raising her from now on, as he's never really been there for her.  Still, they're a relatively happy family, and a realistic one.  The daughters don't know how to react to the news that their mom only has six months or so to live, and neither does Matt.  As for Nicole, she's trying her best to appear normal to friends and family, but it's obviously taking a toll.

During the final year of Nicole's life, a mutual friend named Dane (Jason Segel) decides to move in to offer his services around the house, help raise the girls, and genuinely assist with any grieving or venting that needs to be done.  Dane is the sort of guy who is smart and always means well, but has never gotten ahead in life.  He works at a sporting goods store, and sometimes talks about becoming a stand up comedian, but doesn't really seem to know which way to go in order to get his life started.  He can't help but feel like life has passed him by as he sees his friends married with families.  He also hears them talking about how he hasn't changed much since his college days, and probably never will.  He does have a relationship with a young woman, but when he sees how overwhelmed Matt and Nicole are with their situation, he can't turn his back on them.  His plan to stay and help them out for a few weeks turns into many months, putting his own life and his relationship on hold.

The character of Dane, as well as Segel's performance (the best he's ever given), are what makes Our Friend much more than your standard "disease" movie.  The film never forgets the sacrifice that he is making, but at the same time, it doesn't make him into a Saint.  Dane is a mess, bluntly speaking.  He has little direction in his life, but he's still willing to step up for others.  He's also good with the girls, and genuinely wants to be there for the entire family.  He is believable, and so is the friendship that he shares with both Matt and Nicole.  This is crucial, as if we don't believe this friendship, the movie falls apart.  These are also not perfect people.  Dane sometimes gets lost in self-pity about whether he will ever amount to anything.  Matt usually holds his anger and emotions in, but he can also explode at certain times.  As for Nicole, she's frustrated for what she's going through, and what it's obviously doing for everyone around her.  

All of these aspects of the characters are handled beautifully by Brad Ingelsby's screenplay.  The movie also gets a lot of details right about the response from Nicole's friends to her disease.  When she is first diagnosed, there is an outpouring of support, with tons of well-wishers dropping off food and offering help "any time she needs it".  But, as the disease worsens, those friends stop dropping by and calling.  They don't want to be around her in the later stages, and start finding excuses not to be around her.  There are a lot of truths in this movie that really surprised me.  What I was less impressed with is how the film decides to tell its story out of sequence.  The movie jumps about to different time periods, with subtitles informing us that it's 13 years ago, 4 years ago, a year since the diagnosis, and such.  It's not so much confusing, as it is unnecessary.  A straightforward narrative would have worked just fine here, and probably could have made it an even better film, since the time-hopping storytelling never really pays off.


This poor storytelling decision still does little to diminish the power of Our Friend.  It does not sermonize, nor does it ever try to make its story into anything more than what it is.  These are flawed people with real emotions, so maybe it's fitting that the film itself is the same way.  What it gets right above all else is making these people come across as real.  I found myself identifying with them, and with what they were feeling.  That's such a simple thing, and yet it's something Hollywood struggles with.

0 comments

09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007
08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007
10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007
11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007
12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008
01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008
03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008
05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008
06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008
07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008
08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008
09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008
10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008
11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008
12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009
01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009
02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009
03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009
04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009
05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009
06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009
07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009
08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009
09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009
10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009
11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009
12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010
01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010
02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010
03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010
04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010
05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010
06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010
07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010
08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010
09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010
10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010
11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010
12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011
01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011
03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011
04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011
05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011
07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011
08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011
09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011
10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011
11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011
12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012
01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012
02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012
03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012
04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012
05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012
06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012
07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012
08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012
09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012
10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012
11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012
12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013
01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013
02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013
03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013
04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013
05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013
06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013
07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013
08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013
09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013
10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013
11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013
12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014
01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014
02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014
03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014
04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014
05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014
06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014
07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014
08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014
09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014
10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014
11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014
12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015
01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015
02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015
03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015
04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015
05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015
06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015
07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015
08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015
09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015
10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015
11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015
12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016
01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016
02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016
03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016
04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016
05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016
06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016
07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016
08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016
09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016
10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016
11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016
12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017
01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017
02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017
03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017
04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017
05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017
06/01/2017 - 07/01/2017
07/01/2017 - 08/01/2017
08/01/2017 - 09/01/2017
09/01/2017 - 10/01/2017
10/01/2017 - 11/01/2017
11/01/2017 - 12/01/2017
12/01/2017 - 01/01/2018
01/01/2018 - 02/01/2018
02/01/2018 - 03/01/2018
03/01/2018 - 04/01/2018
04/01/2018 - 05/01/2018
05/01/2018 - 06/01/2018
06/01/2018 - 07/01/2018
07/01/2018 - 08/01/2018
08/01/2018 - 09/01/2018
09/01/2018 - 10/01/2018
10/01/2018 - 11/01/2018
11/01/2018 - 12/01/2018
12/01/2018 - 01/01/2019
01/01/2019 - 02/01/2019
02/01/2019 - 03/01/2019
03/01/2019 - 04/01/2019
04/01/2019 - 05/01/2019
05/01/2019 - 06/01/2019
06/01/2019 - 07/01/2019
07/01/2019 - 08/01/2019
08/01/2019 - 09/01/2019
09/01/2019 - 10/01/2019
10/01/2019 - 11/01/2019
11/01/2019 - 12/01/2019
12/01/2019 - 01/01/2020
01/01/2020 - 02/01/2020
02/01/2020 - 03/01/2020
03/01/2020 - 04/01/2020
04/01/2020 - 05/01/2020
05/01/2020 - 06/01/2020
06/01/2020 - 07/01/2020
07/01/2020 - 08/01/2020
08/01/2020 - 09/01/2020
09/01/2020 - 10/01/2020
10/01/2020 - 11/01/2020
11/01/2020 - 12/01/2020
12/01/2020 - 01/01/2021
02/01/2021 - 03/01/2021
03/01/2021 - 04/01/2021
04/01/2021 - 05/01/2021

Powered by Blogger