I'll admit that even to this day, I find some solid entertainment in the classic Tom and Jerry cartoon shorts. They're so simple that they can appeal to the younger audiences who don't quite grasp plots yet, but still energetic enough to distract older viewers from the fact that most of the episodes are just reiterations of everything we've seen before. Sure, occasionally we get the homeowners telling Tom to be careful, leading to a flurry of disaster as his loathing for Jerry gets the better of him, or a random theme involving Butch teaching his boy that no matter what you do, attacking intruders is fun, but for the most part, it's just a barrage of random carnage, looped backgrounds, screams, crashes, and general anarchy.
Still, despite the fact that I've always enjoyed Tom and Jerry (and their 'Simpsons' counterparts Itchy and Scratchy), I really never desired to see them outside the basic outline that I grew up with, so I passed on all the random feature films that have been the new face of the series since the early '90's. I suppose the recent success of 'Sherlock Holmes' prompted the desire to "strike while the iron is hot," as it were, before a live action sequel could be made, so here we are.
I'm still wondering, though. Why Tom and Jerry? The staple for random team-ups has always been the Scooby-Doo franchise, as those goofy heroes had more than their share of chance encounters, teaming with Batman and Robin, the Harlem Globetrotters, the Three Stooges, Sonny and Cher, and Charles Mans...wait, scratch that, but you get the point. Even odder still, 'Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes' also happens to be the first Tom and Jerry feature made without any involvement from their originators, cartooning pioneers/legends William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
A string of diamond thefts is plaguing London, and soon enough, master detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted sidekick Dr. Watson are put on the case, along with their new friends, a plucky mouse and a grumpy cat. As the team investigates the growing mystery, and its links to a beautiful lounge singer, Red, there seems to be a growing feeling that there's more behind the string of thefts than your ordinary jewelery thievery, as is evidenced by the theft of "The Star of Punjab," a huge, impossibly valuable diamond. As the evil Professor Moriarty machinates one of his grandest schemes, it's up to the crack team to put the pieces together, defeat the villainous cat-burglar henchmen, and stop Moriarty in his tracks.
Pardon my bluntness, but I'm not much a fan of cash grabs, or prolonging a series long past its expiration date. Tom and Jerry worked, truly worked back in their heyday, and they got away with murder, even if no one was actually murdered. The cartoons, which have been scrubbed to conform to political correctness (much like the Looney Tunes) in recent years, were ahead of their time, purveyors of unadulterated domestic violence that can still be pretty brutal, with a borderline malicious sense of humor (when the dopey sidekicks weren't involved to muck it up). Apparently, those incarnations of Tom and Jerry simply cannot exist these days, and their more-family-friendly counterparts fall so far short of their predecessors that they may as well be renamed, if it weren't for that whole "brand recognition" thing.
'Sherlock Holmes' worked, because it was more true to the source, and wasn't the sugary, borderline psychic super-detective that may as well be a deity considering his perfection that we see in the cartoons, and this family feature would rather show the super-intelligent, flawless man, and his bumbling, borderline worthless partner rather than the flawed genius and his perfect counterpart. I get that Holmes is a world famous character, and these iterations of the character are necessary to keep children interested, and more importantly, distracted for almost an hour, but the act can wear thin at times.
The cast isn't too shabby for a direct-to-video Tom and Jerry flick, with Michael York as Holmes, John Rhys-Davies ('The Lord of the Rings') as Dr. Watson, and the excellent Malcolm McDowell as Moriarty taking leading roles, while established voice actors take the secondary roles (including the absolutely wretched Tuffy), creating a nice balance between classic animation voice sensibilities and modern recognition. York may be over the top, but I truly enjoyed McDowell, almost enough to forgive the horribly generic, unmemorable appearance of the character he played.
'Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes' may recycle gags too often (seriously, how many physical distortions after high speed impacts do we need in one 50 minute films?), and even recycles Red's music, which children may not notice, but adults are sure to grimace.Even then, it's still somewhat enjoyable, neutered as the characters may be. There is far too low a looped background to chase sequence ratio for my tastes, a cop out ending that is far too reminiscent of the feature film (it's more than obviously an allusion), and some very predictable scenes (almost the entire film), but the use of some of the best classic animated gags, including the static frame chase sequence using numerous doors, as well as adding a nice modernized ending to said chase, are more than appreciated.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes' arrives on Blu-ray on a BD25 disc, housed in a two-disc eco-case, covered in a nice holographic slipcover. This title can only be purchased at Wal-Mart, as it is a store exclusive, with no announced wide release.
With a 1080p VC-1 encode at 1.78:1, 'Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes' provides a viewing experience that is enjoyable, but is pedestrian at best.
I loved the day shots, as colors were quite bold, with reds standing out a great deal. Sadly, most of the movie is draped in shades of blue to give it a nighttime feeling, and these scenes hardly leapt off the screen. Detail levels are definitely a step above DVD quality, with background panels showing great depth (character animation is basic, at best, so there is little detail to see in large blobs of the same color). The animation itself is often smooth, but there are a few very rough moments that remind us of the nature of this release.
Sadly, this disc has a few issues that cannot be ignored. There's some tiny bits of stairstepping, as well as strong banding, that can be quite distracting in pans. Character outlines can get a bit too choppy, and at one point, a handheld framed photo of Red is enlarged, pixelating it quite badly. Between the 18.20 to 18.22 mark, solid lines around characters go extremely jagged throughout the entire picture, in a "blink and you'll miss it" error that is 100% the fault of the disc/encode. This isn't a movement-caused jaggedness. It's a random artifact.
'Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes' is given a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is, in a word, uninspired.
The score is often subdued, with string instruments blending together in a fashion that makes them sound quite nasty and unnatural. Moments where movement effects would have worked nicely are instead presented in the front channel, so we see cats flying through the air, through the room, only we experience it only from the front. Then again, that's how this entire show runs, with score elements populating the rears, and nothing else, with every inch of action and dialogue coming from the front. I was a tad shocked at how miniscule the noise was for the trademark peddling feet in chases hardly registering in the mix.
A pathetic effort.
Here's where things get interesting. 'Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes' had more than enough extra disc space to fit in a lossless track (that didn't happen), and the fact that there is no such track and almost no extras is a bit of a tell on this release. If we're going to lose high-def audio, at least it could be caused by having a myriad of special features taking up its space. Instead, we have this.
'Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes' isn't a must-own release by any means. In fact, it went so far under the radar it may as well be a submarine. That said, it's still capable of floating, even if it revels in its excesses and cliche far too often. The villainous characters leave too much to be desired, but in the long run, what truly matters is whether children can enjoy the film, and I would bet that this film would definitely appeal to kids, for at least a few viewings. Warner's Blu-ray release of the film has average video, troubled audio, and virtually no extras, save for the two extra ways to view the film, which definitely helps justify the purchase for the kids in the house. One could do much, much worse than spend almost an hour with this film, with or without kids present. It's for fans only, be it Tom and Jerry fans, or Sherlock Holmes fans. If you're in neither category, just steer clear.