Tom and Jerry

After the heavy and emotional Pieces of a Woman, I decided it was time for some lighter fair. It just so happened that Warner Bros. released Tom and Jerry yesterday on HBO Max. I figured there couldn’t be a more to ally opposite movie out there, so I gave it a shot. Honestly it’s a bit of a mixed bag for me.

I grew up loving Tom and Jerry. They were some of my favorites on Saturday mornings, and this movie is firmly aimed at kids. The pitch and pace of this movie is one hundred percent for the under 10 set. The characters are pretty one note. The acting is heightened to a cartoonish level. The storyline is incredibly simplistic and the emotions are all at 11. No nuance or subtext here.

I wish I could say that the movie follows Tom the Cat and Jerry mouse as they engage in their constant battles. Unfortunately the movie decides to sideline them in favor of a slew generic hotel employees preparing for a celebrity wedding. The movie should be called The Royal Gate Hotel (featuring an appearance by Tom and Jerry)

Tom and Jerry exist kind of on the periphery of the hotel drama taking place. Occasionally the movie launches into a classic Tom and Jerry style sequence of madcap slapstick. These moments are pretty fun. I didn’t laugh out loud, but they made me smile. And I felt that warm nostalgia for my childhood that can be so intoxicating.

What really caught me was the animation. This movie is a combination of live action and animation. All the animals in the movie are animated in a way that mimics the classic 2D hand drawn style of the original cartoons. The interaction between the animated and the real is a lot of fun to see. They take an almost Roger Rabbit approach to the way the animated characters interact with real objects and real people. It’s technically brilliant and quite fun to see.

All of these criticisms are kind of moot in the face of the big question: will kids like it? I kept asking myself “would I have liked this as a kid?” I tried to get into the mindset of 8 year old me. As I looked at the movie through his eyes, I enjoyed the Tom and Jerry bits, and was disinterested in the human bits. I think that’s the same reaction a lot of kids will have to this movie.

I think Tom and Jerry works so well is because it’s such a heightened elemental conflict. Tom wants to eat Jerry. Jerry wants to live. Tom wants to kick Jerry out. Jerry wants to stay. That is just so much more compelling than a hotel event planner trying to preparing a wedding for a celebrity who is in disagreement with her fiancé about the scope of their wedding. I’d rather watch a cat try to smash a mouse than a generic 20 something try to plan the wedding of two spoiled billionaires. And 8 year old me agrees.

All in all it’s not great. If you have little kids they might get enjoy some of it. If you love Tom and Jerry, you might get a nostalgic twinge during it. If you’ve just watched an emotionally devastating independent film it might the perfect way to recalibrate your broken heart.

It’s not really my cup of tea. C

Avengers Endgame

Oh boy, this is a movie and a half. This is the culmination of more than a decade of superhero movies, and it satisfies in almost every way.

For the uninitiated, this film will be difficult. It does a nice job reestablishing characters and relationships, but it isn’t for the newbies. It deals with a lot of very specific details from previous films. A lot of the best moments are payoffs from four or five films ago, and the character arcs are a decade old now. It’s still going to carry a lot of entertainment value, but it will be more of a challenge if this is your first go around with the Marvel universe.

However, if you have seen these films, it does not disappoint. It will be an emotional rollercoaster. The film aims for the heart and nails it. The action delivers both entertaining visuals as well as heavy fan service and moments of pure glee. The film is a high flying adventure. Characters are bounced all over different layers of time and space. They go on an epic quest in the grand old fashioned sense and face all manner of obstacles both computer generated and wonderfully human.

Most of the film plays like a comedy and a very funny comedy at that. There are dozens of talented performers on display, but it never feels like a competition. Everyone is given their own space to play. It helps that every performer here is firing on a different comedic level. There is Robert Downey Jr. for the dry sarcasm. Paul Rudd brings your innocent goofball. Chris Hemsworth brings a surprising blend of broad humor and human tragedy. There are so many more layers at work that the film never sags or feels like it’s dragging on.

It was once said that dialogue in action movies is tolerated to get us through to the next action scene. In the Marvel movies the action is tolerated to get to the dialogue because in the dialogue is where the characters shine, and these movies succeed because of the characters. Special effects and action haven’t propped up this decade of Marvel movies. It is the great character work and the great actors inhabiting those characters that make these movies worth seeing. Endgame understands that better than most of its predecessors. It dedicates so much of its runtime to the characters, their development, their interactions, their loss, and their hope. It takes the time to make them human amidst the chaos.

Recently, my dad told me the last words he said to his mother before she passed. In this movie a character dies. The last words spoken to that character are almost identical to my dads words. The film is bombastic and huge. It has a scene in which a space god fights a purple super alien with a magic axe. However, the film never forgets those real genuine human moments that hit hardest. It never forgets that under all the cgi and fantasy these are human stories about people. In the final moments of the film the theater was filled with the sounds of sniffling and stifled sobs. This movie goes for the heart and reminds why we have been watching these movies for the last ten years.

The movie is very effective and affecting. It is well done and very entertaining. As a fan of these movies, it is my cup of tea. As a movie fan, it is my cup of tea. – A-

Alita: Battle Angel

What a bad movie.

Alita: Battle Angel follows the story of a doctor who treats cyborgs in a far off distant future. Scraps fall from a city in the sky. The last city left after the Fall. In the scrap pile he finds the parts of a cyborg girl. He takes the parts and gives her a new body and a new name, Alita. She awakens and tries to determine who she is and where she belongs through killing and destroying tons of villainous cyborgs.

The dialogue is almost entirely exposition. The exposition is almost entirely people explaining things to Alita. Whether it’s the doctor explaining the Fall to Alita, or explaining cyborg body parts or technobabble about nanoparticles, or her boyfriend explaining the rules of rollerball and how things work “down here”, or the villains explaining how badass and evil they are, the movie never stops explaining stuff to everybody else. It is tedious and tiresome.

It’s especially tedious when they drone on and on about a backstory that sounds way more interesting than the story currently being told. Who cares about Alita? There was apparently a class war between the wealthy elite and the proletariat and the Mars army tried to bring down a tyrant. It’s heady and complicated, but it’s more compelling than watching a bunch of actors faces CGI’d onto some goofy looking robot bodies.

The CGI in this film is alternately photo realistic. The detail they have put into the minutest elements of these cyborgs is a marvel to behold… in most shots. In a lot of the shots the cyborgs look too slippery and shiny to be taken seriously. Comparing the opening shots of Alita to the cyborgs in the rollerball game is like watching the best and worst of what CGI can accomplish.

The real failing of the film however is the characters. Alita could be a compelling character. A woman trying to figure out who and what she is. The problem is the film never explores what she was. She seems to have been a warrior before, and she’s a warrior now. She seems to have been a good guy before. She’s a good guy now. Her boyfriend is like watching cardboard. He’s a flat character. He seems like a nice guy, but he has a dark secret, but it’s not a big deal. He’s bland and generically handsome and generically cool. The doctor is basically whatever the story needs him to be. He is secretive, then just tells her everything. He is guarded then not. He is peaceful, and then he’s a killer. He is the most important relationship in Alita’s life, then he disappears for 45 minutes of the excessive run time.

This is a movie full of action set pieces. Each set piece is trying to be the next biggest most iconic moment in action set pieces, but they just fold in on themselves and become a bland potpourri. It’s big, loud, and long. It is sound and fury signifying nothing.

Not my cup of tea. Grade – C