Even the introductory credits to Tom and Jerry: Cowboy Up! are tiring and eventful. Daffy Duck rampages around the screen, bashing the word “animation” onto the drum of Warner Bros’ logo. It’s all downhill from here. The popularity of Tom and Jerry has, somehow, not waned in the last decade. Audiences are far past the opportunities of surprisingly decent, straight-to-DVD content for the cat and mouse duo. Tom and Jerry: Cowboy Up! is a far, far stretch away from the high of Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry. But the past few years have been marred with an awkward controversy here and a failed reboot there. It’s all coming apart at the seams, and it is not surprising considering the vast changes made over the past eight decades.
Where the charms of the animated style have long since waned, what Tom and Jerry has always relied on is the formidable, never-changing fun to be had with its slapstick elements. It is very much the core of Tom and Jerry projects and the only reason, really, to watch them. Manic, fast-paced energy to match the over-the-top action is not just a necessity but a rewarding opportunity to feed younger audiences a great bit of comedy and prepare them for the future of watching reruns of Bottom on Gold at 3am while they’re figuring out what they really want to do with their lives. Not watch Bottom at 3am, that’s for sure.
But they don’t want to be watching Tom and Jerry: Cowboy Up! either, not when John Wayne westerns and classic Tom and Jerry cartoons are available. The animation style is pretty poor. Random colours used with no real idea for what these could infer for characters of villainous or heroic intent. Either way, the odd sexualisation of entities so poorly animated is disturbing and not of the quality that one could expect from this franchise barely ten years ago. The Warner Bros era of these cartoons has been a grim and dull period, but here the animation has faltered way beyond what should be expected. This is Tiny PoP! animation, for those that remember that channel. The lack of detail and the obvious sketch marks of a character here or a background there are underwhelming beyond belief. It’s so, so dull. That lacklustre feeling is common throughout this feature, not just in the animation but in the quality of the slapstick.
Strangely enough, Tom and Jerry share little time with one another. Jerry opens a can of tinned peaches for what can only be described as disgusting gopher freaks and Tom, well, it’s unclear what he does throughout this. Tom and Jerry: Cowboy Up! is not as resourceful or dedicated to telling a story of Tom and Jerry whatsoever. They are of value in name alone, shuffling away from their actual use as characters of quality. All they do now is peddle projects as successfully as Bruce Willis. A name can carry a project. Shameful it may be to do so, it is not as though much effort is being fired into Tom and Jerry. Even Tom and Jerry Tales, that ill-thought revival, was not that grand a time. But fans would take that in a heartbeat if the alternative is Tom and Jerry: Cowboy Up!, which it isn’t. This is all there is.