Fingers Crossed the 2021 Tom & Jerry Film Isn’t as Bad as These 5 Movies

Can a Tom and Jerry movie succeed on the big screen? Warner Bros. certainly hopes so, but the odds are not in the studio’s favor. At least, not if the reputation of prior Tom and Jerry movies is any indication. Many of them are considered mediocre at best. 

On top of that, the studio is dealing with release date changes and fallout over its controversial decision to move its entire 2021 film roster to HBO Max and movie theaters simultaneously. The upcoming Tom and Jerry movie got buried under all that discussion. But perhaps the cat and mouse will surprise us. 

Who are Tom and Jerry?

Tom and Jerry had cameos in the 1953 Esther Williams movie ‘Dangerous When Wet’ | LMPC via Getty Images

One of the reasons Warner Bros. is pushing a Tom and Jerry movie is, arguably, because the cartoon cat and the mouse have largely faded from the national consciousness. Mickey Mouse and pals are still going strong at Disney, and Bugs Bunny and friends continue to be well loved. But Tom and Jerry — who share their 80th birthday with Bugs — are not as well remembered. 

For one thing, they’re the creation of a company that’s a shadow of its former self, MGM. Back when it was a full-fledged studio on what’s now the Sony lot in Culver City, California, MGM had an animation department. According to the BBC, in 1940, directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera released the cartoon “Puss Gets the Boot.” Then, the cat and mouse were known as Jasper and Jinx. They were an immediate hit. They won Oscars and made animation history by joining the world of live-action alongside MGM stars such as Gene Kelly and Esther Williams. 

However, in the 1950s, MGM began to fade, and the cartoon cat and mouse waned with it. The characters ended up in the hands of other animators, usually with cartoons that paled compared with the early ones. Eventually, the MGM library, including its cartoons, was absorbed by Warner Bros. The studio is trying to revive the characters with the live-action/animation hybrid Tom & Jerry

What are the worst Tom and Jerry movies?

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In recent years, Warner Bros. has made Tom and Jerry more strictly kid-friendly, with Tom’s pursuit of Jerry being much less violent than in the old days. Often, they’re even friends, a development some cartoon fans consider sacrilege. Many of the characters’ appearances have been in feature-length movies based on existing films. One of those is Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. 

If that sounds like a strange idea, take heart. Various critics and websites have turned up their noses at these movies as if they’re hunks of rotten cheese. Screen Rant lists the five worst as the Wonka entry, Tom and Jerry Blast Off to Mars, Tom and Jerry’s Giant Adventure, Tom and Jerry: The Lost Dragon, and Tom and Jerry: The Movie.’

Reviewers have been dismissive and sometimes hostile toward these movies, heaping particular scorn upon the Wonka reboot. On Rotten Tomatoes, one review said the movie “should appeal to children who are either stupid, held hostage, or from sheltered households.”

Warner Bros. is trying to revive its animated properties

Tom and Jerry aren’t the only classic characters the studio has revived. Earlier this year, Warner’s released Scoob!, which placed the beloved mystery-solving dog and his pals into an MCU-like environment with other Hanna-Barbera characters. It’s hard to know how well that movie did because, like many movies in 2020, it went direct to video due to the pandemic. 

However, Warner Bros. will try again with Tom & Jerry, due out on February 26, 2021. As IGN noted, the movie’s release was pushed back, likely to keep it clear of Disney’s latest animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon. Warner’s 2021 also includes the long-awaited sequel to Space Jam, the 1996 film that paired the Looney Tunes characters with Michael Jordan. The new movie, Space Jam: A New Legacy, puts Bugs and friends on a team with LeBron James. It’s due in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16.

Ironically, that movie could overshadow the new Tom and Jerry film, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and directed by Tim Story, who made two Fantastic Four movies. Still, this is a wider berth than the cat and mouse have been given in quite some time. It will certainly help if the movie is good.