This week, Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (that movie you had to be convinced actually exists) was released on digital video. On the day of the original film’s anniversary, you might be asking: How the hell do a fighting cat and mouse fit into Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? I can tell you with absolute certainty, having watched the film (with the help of copious amounts of alcohol)... I have no idea.
Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Original Movie!) is an animated Cliffs Notes for the beloved Gene Wilder film—only worse, in every single way. It has almost all the songs, only worse. It uses many of the iconic lines, only worse. There are shots and scenes that are replicated almost exactly... only, again, much worse. It’s an experiment in survival more than a film.
I started the evening with a sparkling cider and 1990's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a tragic ode to the hands of fate as two heroes ponder the meaning of life as spectators in their own story. After all, what are Tom and Jerry if not the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of our time? I could only survive an hour of that before I decided to switch to Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka, figuring it had to be more fun than enduring a Shakespearean existential crisis.
Was it, though?
Here’s the plot... or rather, how the hell Tom and Jerry attempt to fit into it. Tom and Jerry are starving vagabonds living on the streets, at first fighting over a piece of cheese (Can cats eat cheese? Apparently yes.) before Tom starts imagining Jerry as a piece of chocolate and chasing him around. (Can cats eat chocolate? Hell no, though they can eat mice so why is Tom picturing Jerry as something that would kill him?) They’re stopped mid-fight by Charlie, who gives them a loaf of bread to munch on. From now on, they’re best friends and totally not ham-fisted additions to a beloved classic!
Charlie is full of longing because he can’t afford a Wonka Bar, unlike all the other kids crowding the Candy Man’s shop. I’ve always had a problem with the Candy Man. Sure, his song is cool, but how the hell is he charging these kids for all that candy? Does he make them pay a fee up front or something? Or is he like a drug dealer, giving them a little bit for free to get them hooked later on? “The Candy Man can” indeed...
As Charlie heads home, sadder than ever, Tom and Jerry conspire to steal a bunch of chocolate bars for him. Their target: Tyke, that dog from the cartoon series who talks even though Tom and Jerry don’t. He works for Willy Wonka as general security and delivery. We find out later he’s secretly helping Slugworth steal the Everlasting Gobstopper... although we eventually find out Slugworth is secretly an actor who’s helping Willy Wonka, but Tyke didn’t know that so he’s just a heartless traitor who should be fired.
Also, all the chocolate in this movie looks like poop. They never fix this.
Tom and Jerry steal the chocolate and take it home to Charlie and his mom, who doesn’t get to sing in this movie but does get a healthy dose of lip collagen. Charlie refuses the chocolate because DUH IT WAS STOLEN YOU IDIOTS, and Tom and Jerry struggle to return it to the Candy Man’s shop without anyone noticing (likely breaking every single candy bar in the process). Grandpa Joe, voiced by the only person who actually sounds like the original actor, gets Charlie all excited about Wonka chocolate, the bestest in the whole world.
Just look at his eyes as he imagines the wonders of chocolate bliss.
Stare into their depths.
Soon, we learn about the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket contest and school is immediately canceled. Tom and Jerry are around somewhere doing stupid shit I think. You’ve got all the introductions of the kids from the original, albeit shorter and much weirder-looking. We meet up with Augustus, Violet, Veruca Salt, and Mike TV. All the kids look distorted, but Mike TV is especially disconcerting. His whole mouth is made up of one giant tooth. Also, in this version, Slugworth doesn’t sneak up on these kids so much as slide into their DMs.
I will admit the only thing that kind of worked for me was how they used Tom and Jerry to explain the coin Charlie finds that enables him to buy the winning Wonka Bar. After it turns out Droopy is the one who faked the final Golden Ticket (why?), getting arrested in the process (also why?), Tom and Jerry decide to give Charlie a fighting chance. They earn some cash by selling glass bottles, but lose the coin down the drain... only for Charlie to discover it on his own. It felt like shitty fan fiction, but hey I was about one cider and two shots of tequila in at this point and I tried to work with what I had.
Charlie and Grandpa Joe head to the factory to finally meet Mr. Wonka, but they’ve got to justify including Tom and Jerry for some reason. So how about Charlie forgot the fucking ticket at home and Jerry has to sneak it back into Grandpa Joe’s pocket?! Literally no one notices as this tiny mouse runs through the crowd holding a giant Golden Ticket, gleaming in the sun like the most sacred prize in humankind... which it is. It just makes Charlie and Grandpa Joe look like the world’s biggest dumbasses, undeserving of Wonka’s empire.
From here on out, there are basically two different movies going on simultaneously: The original Willy Wonka film (only worse), and this stupid side adventure that Tom and Jerry take with a mouse-shaped Oompa Loompa “in training” called Tuffy. Slugworth (who I kept calling Slytherin or Slutworth, depending on my mood) sneaks into the factory to steal the Everlasting Gobstopper for himself, and it’s up to Tom, Jerry, and Tuffy to stop him. Only, again, Slugworth was working for Willy Wonka the whole time. His whole purpose was to weed out the children who would betray Willy Wonka, so wouldn’t his presence in the factory totally screw that up?
Whatever. Here’s an image of a tiny mouse steering a boat to hell.
It gets better.
Tom and Jerry cross paths with Charlie, like, once in the middle of the tour. They sneak into the Invention Room as Willy Wonka is showing off the Everlasting Gobstopper, and together they work out Slytherin’s evil plan... but they can’t tell Willy Wonka about it because this movie is 89 minutes of nothing and we need to keep the plot going. Oh, sorry—I mean he doesn’t like cats. Who doesn’t like cats? You’re a dick Willy Wonka and I hope your empire dies with you.
As the tour continues to weed out kids in cinematically identical ways, Tom, Jerry, and Tuffy escape with the machine’s only surviving Everlasting Gobstopper to make sure Slutworth doesn’t get it. The animated Veruca Salt sings her criminally subpar rendition of “I Want It Now” but she doesn’t sing it alone. No, you see, in this movie Slugworth gets not one, BUT TWO MUSICAL NUMBERS. (He also sings “I Want It Now” as he’s trying to seduce Charlie into working for him.)
It’s one of the only non-Tom and Jerry related additions in the film, apart from nearly burning Veruca alive in a furnace, and it’s just awful. Did any of us need to hear Slytherin sing? Was this something audiences were clamoring for? It’s also kind of shitty when you realize the movie takes away one of its two female-led songs (“Cheer Up Charlie” isn’t in this version) and then makes the other girl share her solo, THE BEST ONE IN THE WHOLE MOVIE, with a dude who didn’t even sing in the first place. That’s it, movie, I may have drank a third of a tequila bottle by this point but you and I are through!
Oh wait I have to finish it crap.
The shenanigans continue. Tom drinks one of those bubbly sodas and farts his way to freedom (I’d try to explain it more but what’s the point). Tuffy can’t become an Oompa Loompa because they have a caste system that says she’s too short. I’m assuming Tuffy is a girl and I don’t care if I’m wrong. The evil security dog is transformed into a blueberry, a tray of chocolate, and anything else that would kill a normal animal. Mike TV gets turned into a tiny person and sent away, but not before a couple of Oompa Loompas basically dry-hump on camera.
Oh, you don’t believe me?
And then we get the big climax. Willy Wonka heads off to prepare his final test, while Tom, Jerry, and Charlie work to stop Slutworth and Tyke once and for all. They have this epic battle around the TV remote, first trapping Slytherin in the television and then accidentally changing it so he and Tyke are 15 feet tall (what). They try to “reverse the signal” a bunch of times (what), with Tom literally banging on the computer console to see what happens (good plan), until Slutworth and Tyke are split into a million zillion pieces and Tuffy thinks that’s good enough to solve the problem.
Damn Tuffy, that’s cold.
Also, Tuffy grows enough to fit the Oompa Loompa height requirement. But sadly, she’ll never outgrow their brutal caste system... nor Willy Wonka’s abject hatred of animals, which comes to fruition during Wonka’s final verbal beatdown of Charlie. Wonka yells at Charlie and Grandpa Joe for bringing a cat and two mice into his factory. Omigod ONE OF THEM IS YOUR PAID EMPLOYEE YOU GARBAGE PERSON. Then, as we already knew, Charlie turns over the Gobstopper, Wonka tells him he won the grand prize, and we learn that Slugworth, i.e. Mr. Wilkinson, was working for him the entire time.
So, what’s the reason Wilkinson gives for chasing Tom and Jerry throughout half the movie to get a Gobstopper he didn’t actually need? He was worried they would “interfere with the plan” to help Wonka find an heir. You were interfering with it more, you moron. Ugh, my brain hurts.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory turns 46 years old today, and yet it’s just as incredible now as it was half a century ago. It’s the kind of film that will always be. It doesn’t matter that sets, special effects, or budgets have improved, this movie has an ability to charm and delight generations.
Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is not just stupid, it’s insulting. It’s a cheap mockbuster with a cat and mouse artlessly, needlessly inserted. You can tell the only reason they did it is because Warner Bros. owns the rights and wanted to make some money ripping themselves off, like they already did with Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz. It’s weird, bad, and exhausting.
The tequila may have softened the blow, but it didn’t make it any better. If, for some awful reason, you find yourself forced to watch this movie, I suggest you drink as well. Honestly, drinking to the point where you pass out for 90-plus minutes would be the best-case scenario. Whatever hangover you wake up with will be less painful than having watched Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I promise.