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TOM & JERRY – Christopher Lennertz

Original Review by Christopher Garner

A modern take on the classic cartoon duo, Tom & Jerry sees the titular cat and mouse duking it out in a swanky New York City hotel. Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) has recently been hired at the hotel under false pretenses and is trying to prepare the venue for the upcoming wedding of socialite “it” couple, Preeta and Ben. Jerry the mouse moves into the hotel and is living the high life until he is discovered and it becomes Kayla’s job to get rid of him. She enlists Tom the cat, going over the head of her supervisor Terence (Michael Peña) to do so, and the ensuing battle between the cat and mouse threatens to destroy the hotel as well as Preeta and Ben’s wedding. The film is directed by Tim Story and also stars Colin Jost, Pallavi Sharda, and Ken Jeong. It is a live-action/animation hybrid film, where all the human characters are live-action and all the animals are animated in a traditional 2D style. Critics were not fond of the film, but it fared better than expected at the box office despite its release during the pandemic.

For the music, Tim Story turned to his frequent collaborator, Christopher Lennertz. They worked together on the Think Like a Man and Ride Along films and most recently on 2019’s Shaft. Lennertz has been a very busy composer lately (with over 20 assignments in just the last five years), and has scored several animated/family films in all that work. Most recently he scored UglyDolls, and before that he scored the Smurfs franchise, most of which were also live-action/animation hybrids. For this film, Story wanted music that was “a calling card to every generation,” so he and Lennertz decided to “mix in everything from some hip hop and … Indian music and just kind of looked for every little facet of music that we could add just so we were inclusive of as many cultures … as possible.” Lennertz was given an enormous canvas on which to paint this inclusive score, with a 100-piece orchestra, choir, and lot of instrumentalists on piano, organ, guitars, drums, saxophone, accordion, and an assembly of traditional Indian instruments. Lennertz’s score is fun, energetic, catchy, and even sentimental at times, but it suffers a little on album from near-constant starts and stops.

The score is bookended by a big fun theme performed on blaring brass over a funk beat. It first appears in “Tom and Jerry,” which treats us to the theme played over synth embellishments, vinyl record scratches, piano, and some hip hop vocals. This big opening only lasts for 30 seconds before the tone shifts and quiets down for the remaining 20 seconds of the track. What we get from this first cue is a preview of what’s to come. The score is full of elements of funk and hip hop, has a lot of turntable effects, some really fun loud melodies, and electronically manipulated vocals saying things like “woo!” and “hit it!” This first cue is also a harbinger of all the short tracks to come. And many of those short tracks have significant tonal shifts that chop up the listening experience even further. It all works to compliment the action on screen well, but away from the film much of the album plays like a collection of very short musical ideas.

“Kayla Quits” starts with some electric guitar and drums, but shifts after about 30 seconds into some softer piano that performs for the first time what I’ll call the love theme, though it doesn’t really serve that function in this scene. The theme is reminiscent of 90s romantic comedy scores, which is okay with me, but may be too saccharine for some listeners. “Tom and Jerry Arrive” returns to the turntable effects, fun brass and manipulated vocals, this time with some jazzy upright bass. The track also incorporates some nice soul elements. “Jerry’s Theme” is performed on big brass, with some low synth and manipulated vocals underneath. It’s fun, but short, again lasting only 30 seconds or so before the music quiets down to a slow beat and a little jazz organ. We get Jerry’s theme again later on in “Jerry’s Spa.” “Tom in Disguise” starts with some upright bass, adds more vinyl scratching, and jazz organ, and then shifts again at about 30 seconds, moving through a variety of styles until it ends on a short bit of sultry 80s saxophone.

“Kayla’s Tour” has more of the funk sound and a lot going on through the first half, with bass guitar, drums, turntables, chimes, and violin. The cue also introduces us to two new themes. The first is, I believe, for Kayla’s supervisor, Terence, and it starts around the 23-second mark. It’s sneaky and comedic at the same time, much like Michael Peña’s character. Terrence’s theme appears often throughout the score on a variety of low-toned instruments. You can hear it on bass in “Could He Wear a Hat,” and on baritone sax in “Terence Fired.” The second theme that “Kayla’s Tour” introduces us to is a very French-sounding theme for accordion and represents the chef played by Ken Jeong, who is not very French. We get more of the chef’s music in “Rodentia is toast” (where it takes on a villainous twist). There are a couple other short appearances of accordion in the score (literally every time Jeong is onscreen), but their fleeting and infrequent nature tells you how little screen time Jeong gets in the film.

“Preeta and Ben” starts with some piano and saxophone over a strong beat, moves into a bass guitar groove with finger snaps, high hat, and clicking drumsticks, and then transitions to the 90s rom-com sound, ending with a short statement from Mendelssohn’s Wedding March on tubular bells. Lennertz drops in little quotes from other famous works several times throughout the score. “Locked Up” includes a nod to “Dueling Banjos,” and “Tightrope” begins with an homage to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on piano.

“Cheese Trap” sees the first significant instance of traditional Indian music, with the use of the snake-charming Pungi, accompanying Jerry as he floats through the air toward some delicious cheese. “Tightrope” contains the score’s first significant instance of action music, featuring a big choir. This more modern action sound usually accompanies Tom and Jerry’s battles in the hotel, like in the latter tracks, “Meet My Enforcer” and “Petnado.” “Better Cheese Trap” incorporates some traditional Indian instruments through the first part before transitioning into a really fantastic saxophone section over a strong beat accompanied by choir, piano, and drums. It might be the most toe-tappingly infectious moment of the score for me. I should probably mention that I’m not typically a fan of saxophone, but this score has several instances of saxophone music that I think are outstanding, and this is one of them.

The Indian influences in the score become more prominent as the wedding nears. “Terence Watches” is a mixed bag of just about every style in the score, with guitar, accordion, manjira (Indian finger cymbals), and tabla drums. “Bridal Chat—Drone,” opens with the love theme on piano, then transitions to more Indians drums and manjira. Clocking in at over six minutes, “Wedding Disaster” is by far the longest track on the album, the next longest not even reaching three minutes in length. It starts with a bunch of traditional Indian instruments, including tabla, sitar, hang drums, and sarangi. When the strings come in several times over the top of the Indian instrumentation it’s really gorgeous. The music gets more ominous and dramatic as Tom and Jerry begin to ruin everything, and a lot of the Indian flavor is replaced with more western symphonic tension, though the Indian instruments are still included. The cue ends on a triumphant performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy by choir, orchestra, and wedding bells as animated elephants crash out of the hotel onto the city streets of New York.

“The Wedding’s Off” slows things down and gives us a sadder, more sincere performance of the love theme. And it’s a full two minutes of that tone, which is nice. “New Plan” returns us to familiar funk territory after a great little xylophone transition. “Married in the Park” then gives us another soft rendition of the love theme with piano and guitar, and then the biggest performance of that theme with drums and strings. It ends with a triumphant finale with full orchestra and more Indian percussion. “End Credits (Tom and Jerry)” wraps things up by repeating the big fun brass theme from the opening track, this time adding some excellent wailing saxophone and trumpet.

There is a lot to like here. So much of the album is really fun. Lennertz is an excellent composer, and he and his orchestrators did a great job incorporating so many different musical styles and instruments. The problem is that we rarely get to enjoy one sound for longer than half a minute. The score has some good highlights, but they’re all 30 seconds long. Your enjoyment of this music away from the film will depend very much on your tolerance for having the listening experience cut up into all these small bites. Three of the last four tracks actually do sustain their musical ideas for a little longer and those will be the ones I return to most often.

Buy the Tom & Jerry soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Tom and Jerry (0:51)
  • Park Chase (1:18)
  • Kayla Quits (1:00)
  • Tom and Jerry Arrive (1:21)
  • Jerry’s Theme-Meeting Linda (1:55)
  • Tom in Disguise (1:42)
  • Kayla’s Tour (2:44)
  • Preeta & Ben (2:19)
  • Rodentia Is Toast (1:14)
  • Cheese Trap (1:44)
  • Tightrope (1:42)
  • I Know You (1:50)
  • Could He Wear a Hat (2:03)
  • Meet My Enforcer (1:18)
  • Jerry’s Spa (1:48)
  • Spike Drags Terrence (1:01)
  • Better Cheese Trap (1:52)
  • Rooftop Chat (1:40)
  • Petnado (2:27)
  • Terrence Fired (2:49)
  • Terrence Watches (1:18)
  • Bridal Chat-Drone (2:24)
  • Locked Up (2:00)
  • Interrogation (1:50)
  • Wedding Disaster (6:08)
  • The Wedding’s Off (2:02)
  • New Plan (1:15)
  • Married in the Park (2:31)
  • Cat Dog Mouse Fight (0:31)
  • End Credits (Tom and Jerry) (1:25)

Running Time: 56 minutes 17 seconds

Watertower Music (2021)

Music composed and conducted by Christopher Lennertz. Orchestrations by Andrew Kinney, Michael Lloyd, Marcus Sjowall and Gernot Wolfgang. Additional music by DJ Nu-Mark, Dara Taylor and Dan DiPrima. Recorded and mixed by Stephen McLaughlin and Casey Stone. Edited by Slamm Andrews, Peter Clarke and Michael Connell. Album produced by Christopher Lennertz.

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  1. November 16, 2021 at 11:22 am

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