Tom and Jerry

A very dumb movie.

Beyond being a dull in-the-moment experience, this film violated my immediate post-viewing hours because it filled me with questions:

  • Why did they set this in the real world? Why not just animate the whole thing?

  • All of the animals in this film are animated, but why can some animals speak and others can’t? Is animal speech a mutation? Or, are all animals born with the ability to speak but some lose the ability–or have it taken from them? There’s darkness here.

  • A related question: Why don’t Tom and Jerry speak? I know the characters didn’t talk in the original cartoon, but this film thumbs its nose at the canonical dynamic by dropping the pair into a real-world setting. Why not go all the way and have the two main characters speak?

  • Are there really that many young “Tom and Jerry” fans out there to justify a film? I watched plenty of “Tom and Jerry” cartoons when I was a kid, but it wasn’t appointment viewing. It was one of the three things that was on. I cannot imagine a kid choosing to watch “Tom and Jerry” episodes when so many other things are now available.

  • Are slapstick cartoons still relevant? Watching characters pummel each other just doesn’t seem appealing anymore.

  • Why is Michael Peña in this film? He’s too talented to get stuck playing the heavy opposite an animated cat and mouse.

The return of “I guess I’ll watch that”: My grandparents had HBO when I was a kid, which meant that whenever I went to their house I’d watch whatever was on. It didn’t matter what it was. It didn’t matter if the movie was almost over. I gladly accepted the gifts premium cable offered.

Over time, I realized this serendipitous exposure led to an exponential expansion of my pop culture knowledge. I knew things about actors and directors and films that didn’t match up with my preferences. I came to love this ambient awareness.

The rise of streaming–where you have to physically select the thing you want to watch–has made serendipity harder to come by. I’ve often found myself shuffling through various services for 10-15 minutes looking for something that catches my interest. Sometimes I don’t find anything at all.

But that’s starting to shift. Now that studios are responding to the pandemic by releasing their first-run films on streaming services, I’ve noticed that serendipitous exposure is returning in a new form. Case in point: I put “Tom and Jerry” on because it premiered on HBO Max. That is the only reason I watched it. In this case I wasn’t rewarded with a delightful surprise, but I did get a kick out of watching something just for the heck of it.