Snappily animated, TOM AND JERRY: THE MOVIE never feels like an over-extended cartoon short. While their adventures may not be inspired, the storyline for Tom and Jerry's feature-length film serves as a jaunty springboard for funny sight gags, buoyant songs, and irresistible messages about
odd couple friendships.
On moving day, Tom (Richard Kind) outwits himself into homelessness when he fights Jerry (Dana Hill) right off their family's moving van and onto the street. Adrift in the big, bad city, Tom and Jerry are quickly admonished by Pugsy Dog (Ed Gilbert) and Frankie Flea (David Landers) about
avoiding dog catchers and learning to get along. While Pugsy is captured by a shady medic named Doctor Applecheek (Henry Gibson), Tom scuffles with alley cats until Jerry rescues him by opening up a manhole into which he can escape. By the river, the cat and mouse meet a young runaway, Robyn
Starling (Anndi McAfee) whose father is reputedly lost in an avalanche and whose iniquitous Aunt Figg (Charlotte Rae) tolerates her only in order to control the family fortune. When a cop returns Robyn to her unhappy home she brings along Tom and Jerry, who aren't warmly received by Aunt Figg and
her obese pooch Ferdinand (Michael Bell). When Tom and Jerry discover that Robyn's dad is still alive, Aunt Figg hustles them off to Doctor Applecheek's. After precipitating a mass exodus at the Applecheek Pound, Tom and Jerry help Robyn flee but are separated from her during a storm. While Robyn
is saved by Captain Kiddie (Rip Taylor) and his parrot-puppet Squawk (Howard Morris), Aunt Figg and her lawyer Mr. Lickboot (Tony Jay) realize they must prove their ward's good health in order to continue reaping financial benefits. Meanwhile Daddy Starling flies through a dangerous thunderstorm
to reunite with his daughter. When Figg offers a phony reward for Robyn's capture, Capt. Kiddie, Applecheek, and Applecheek's henchmen nearly kill themselves trying to locate and turn over the child. At Robyn's Nest, the Starling family cabin, a fire breaks out; Aunt Figg and Lickboot selfishly
leave Robyn behind in haste to save their own necks. Heroically, Tom and Jerry save their trapped pal as Daddy Starling arrives to reclaim his child and fortune and to give Tom and Jerry a new home.
The key ingredient in an animated film's success is the creation of vivid characters with whom the audience can relate. Even if a movie is hampered with a primitive drawing style or burdened with a lackluster musical score, an array of full-dimensional heroes and villains can reach the child in
us all. In TOM AND JERRY, the two leads are old friends, so we're already willing to follow them anywhere. And although Robyn is rather ordinary in conception, the film also offers us the obsequious Dr. Applecheek, the mountainously mendacious Aunt Figg, and the deliciously scatter-brained Capt.
Kiddie. With these rogues to boo and hiss, it's impossible not to become involved in Tom and Jerry's crusade to help pseudo-orphan Robyn. Happily, the film's core theme that folks must respect each other's differences and embrace their similarities is not preached at the viewer but arises
naturally out of the way Tom and Jerry face their adversities--together. If the Mancini score disappoints somewhat, it's still melodically and lyrically superior to most contemporary song-and-dance cartoon features. Certainly the "Friends to the End" softshoe is a highlight and even reinforces the
movie's message. Another plus is the variety of action-packed antics that draw a parallel between Tom and Jerry losing their home and Robyn being trapped in a loveless environment. All three characters learn that as long as you have friends, you have a sort of portable family you can take with you
in times of trouble--home isn't just the place where you live, it's finding a place where there are people you love. The film's sunshiney ending restores family harmony for the girl and her new animal chums and reassures youngsters that Tom and Jerry can survive anything--even each other. In fact,
this bubbly cartoon may be infectious enough to temporarily restore peace between squabbling young siblings who can identify with Tom and Jerry.
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