Judge Bill Gibron can't wait for Worker and Parasite: The Movie.
They're no Itchy and Scratchy, but…
Remember the brouhaha that erupted about 20 years ago when it was announced the seminal cat and mouse combo Tom and Jerry were going to make their major big screen debut in their first full length cartoon feature…and that they were going to talk? Speak? Open their pen and ink pipes and pontificate? That's right, generations of fans who grew up on the silent rodent and his equally quiet feline foe mixing it up for easy laughs were up in arms…and rightfully so. The characters were kings of second-tier cartoon comedy, experts in the realm of violent physical shtick and animated slapstick. Having them speak seemed antithetical to their entire legacy, as well as a mean spirited attempt at an unnecessary nostalgia cash grab. Luckily, the intended demo rejected the defilement, meaning we never got to hear Richard Kind (A Serious Man) or the late Dana Hill (Welcome Home, Jellybean) doing their crappy kitty and rat routine again.
Now, as family films continue to eat up huge portions of the weekly box office revenue, the masterminds over at Warner Bros. have decided that home video needs as much Tom and Jerry as possible. Since the merger with Turner and taking over the property, they have released many titles: Tom and Jerry: The Magic Ring, Tom and Jerry Blast Off to Mars, and Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry. They then tried to tackle the classics by importing the duo into famous (or faux renditions of) works of fiction. We got Tom and Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers (a veiled Treasure Island), Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale (quite obvious) and Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes. Recently, celebrated films have joined the trend—with Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz finding direct-to-DVD fortune—and now this, a take on the tale of Robin Hood and his battles with the bad old Sheriff of Nottingham.
As you'd expect, Tom works for the wicked Prince John, while Jerry functions as a secret emissary between Maid Marion and our tights-wearing, bow hunting, robbin' from the rich and givin' to the poor plucky hero. Yes, there's a Friar Tuck and a beefy Little John, an archery contest and the obligatory cartoon chase scenes through the halls of the castle. The main plot thread has the Sheriff setting Robin up so that he can be captured. Since our lead loves Maid Marion, a prisoner of the Prince, we are destined for a moment when an otherwise smart character does something vastly stupid, thereby requiring the rest of the cast to come to his rescue. In the end, Tom sees the error of his "siding with evil" ways, Jerry remains a gutsy little rapscallion, and another piece of electronic babysitting is placed out on the market to make moms and dads slightly less self-conscious about failing to spend any real quality time with their impressionable, biological burden.
At least directors Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone have the right approach. They harken back to the days of Droopy Dog and Tex Avery, offering a Marion that resembles one of those wolf-whistle hotties and a cast of ancillary characters that are both simplistic and wildly over the top. The film is bright and colorful, and the mandatory musical numbers are innocuous, while adding almost nothing. The voice work (Tom and Jerry are indeed silent throughout) is fine and the comedy capering between cat and mouse is reminiscent of, if not exactly like, the Tom and Jerry of yore. And yet, Robin Hood and his Merry Mouse also feels wholly unnecessary. It's as if Warners, unable to fully support a true, full-blown T&J revamp (Cartoon Network is, apparently), decided to cut their creative losses and go for something a bit safer. There's no attempt to drawn in the old fan (except for the previously mentions homages) and the whole thing feels like nothing more than a penury-avoiding placeholder. This is artifice, not art.
At least the Blu-ray meets the basic industry standards. The 1.78:1/1080p image is excellent. It's colorful, bright, and loaded with lots of little details. Granted, this is not the classic animation from decades before, but it looks a lot better than the nonsense that passes for cartooning on your typical Saturday morning slop fest. On the sound side, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is not very immersive. Yes, the songs are treated well, and the dialogue is always easy to understand, but you'd expect a movie with this amount of action in it to have at least a little more spatial and directional drive. The channels get a workout when it comes to ambient noises, but everything else feels basic. As for the added content, we get three period-appropriate Tom and Jerry shorts. One, "Medieval Menace", comes from 2006-2007's Tom and Jerry Tales and feels like something made out of leftover scraps. It's not very good. The other two, "The Two Mouseketeers" and "Robin Hoodwinked" come from 1952 and 1959 respectively, and are much, much better. They remind of the classic cat and mouse hijinx.
Tom and Jerry always paled in comparison to Disney and their Looney Tune competition. While it's on par with the House of Mouse's mediocre bastard sequelization of its mythic hits, Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse is nothing special. It won't insult your intelligence, but it won't make you wiser for watching, either.
Guilty. The kiddies deserve better.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Animated Shorts
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