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Tom & Jerry: The Magic Ring

Warner Bros. // Unrated // March 12, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Christopher Simons | posted January 31, 2002 | E-mail the Author

LEADER

Peanut butter and jelly. White bread and mayo. Bruckheimer and Bay. Tom and Jerry. Milk and cookies...hold the phone, what are America's animated anarchists doing on a list this bland and safe? Well, thanks to Turner and Warner Brothers' new DVD offering, Tom and Jerry: The Magic Ring, it would seem to be precisely where they belong.

Expecting the friendly buddying about of their watered down daily series, Tom and Jerry Kids, I was prepared for the worst. Instead, the cartoon couple inhabiting this disc fall somewhere between the T&J of yore and the icky afternoon do-gooders whose skill with knives and shovels is nowhere to be found. While the film does not portray the duo of destruction I wasted afternoons with, the hybridizing hatchers of Itchy and Scratchy, I was happy to find the essence of the classic shorts marginally intact.

THE MOVIE

Tom and Jerry: The Magic Ring introduces us to our main characters: Tom (the cat) and Jerry (the mouse). They live with their teenaged warlock-master Chip, whose mastery of the dark arts is hampered only by his lack of proper spell ingredients. Chip must journey to Calcutta to elicit an element necessary for the completion of said spell. Before departure, he leaves Tom in care of his "magic" ring, promising him a salmon dinner in exchange for its safety.

Soon, in a fit of royal disillusion, Jerry gets the ring stuck on his skull. As Jerry searches the city for a solution, Tom searches for Jerry and the ring. Along the way, many of the classic T&J supporting characters (including Butch and Spike & Tyke) appear, each clamoring for a piece of either Tom, Jerry, or the ring, and that's about it.

I feel a bit, well, old complaining about the plotting of a cartoon, but it seems that the creators (writers Tim Cahill and Julie McNally and director James Tim Walker) have settled for a rehashing of cartoon conventions instead of the refreshing blast of chaos Tom and Jerry are synonymous with. You've seen these gags before. Twice.

The animation is on a par with Animaniacs or Pinky and the Brain; not exactly bottom of the barrel, but far short of being inspirational. I can't say I expected anything other than what it delivered.

Of course, it is all about the children. Mine (ages six and four) seemed entertained. The boy, who counts Tom and Jerry's Greatest Chases among his fave discs, asked to watch it again today. I suppose something must be said for a kid's picture that does what it is supposed to do. And I guess you can feel safe (if you're like that) knowing that your offspring won't be subjected to animated sticks of TNT carefully inserted into various orifices of small (animated) animals.

THE DVD

PICTURE:

Here we have a strong full-frame transfer (I'm assuming this is OAR, it is a made-for-video release) which is as good a representation of a modern animated feature as I've seen. One thing to add, however, this here DVD has a super-sharp picture. Almost too super-sharp. I'm no animation expert, so my description reeks of layman's laziness, but the moving characters seemed too distinct against the background mattes. To these eyes, this separation robbed many scenes of a true sense of depth.

The colors are bright and glossy, and without anything to judge this against I'd have to say the transfer is as good as it could have been.

SOUND:

Warner has provided us with an English 5.1 track and French and Spanish 2.0 Surround tracks. The 5.1 track had more action from the rears than I was expecting, but curiously little action from the subwoofer. I would have liked a bit of boom during the various beatings and crashes, but that might have made the violence a little too violent for many parents. Obviously this is not a dialog driven piece, but what speech there is comes across clearly.

EXTRAS:

Okay, here's what elevates this from a rental to a recommended (if you have children). First, Behind the Artist's Brush, a brief (5 minute) making-of. Fluff, to be sure, but my kids liked it and it was over before boredom set in. There are two point and click games, two text-only infomenus, and a "How-to-Draw" Tom and Jerry thingy which consists of footage of an artist drawing the two characters sped up roughly 600%. The medal for best extra, however, is shared by two classic T&J shorts, The Flying Sorceress and Haunted Mouse (the latter from the Chuck Jones era). Both shorts work well as companion pieces with their similar magic/mystical themes.

TAIL:

Okay, so it ain't a classic, but it's short. Well, it isn't 90 minutes. Although saddened by the lack of delicious destruction, at least it isn't Tom and Jerry Kids. And speaking of kids, I must emphasize that mine liked it. Couple this with two classic shorts and a list price of $19.99 and I'd say pick it up, but only for the younger ones.

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C O N T E N T

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