Monday, February 16, 2015

Tom and Jerry at the Ice-Capades

Hey, remember that one Tom and Jerry where they run water all over the place and create their own ice skating rink with a little help from the fridge?  Yeah, reminds me of that one time in my dorms when a bunch of people were taking a really really long shower late at night.  Funny story: some one or a group of ones had just turned on all the showers.  But that alone is not enough; they blocked up all the drains as well so none of the water could escape.  And even though this was a major university on the West Coast, I have no doubt that whatever geniuses were responsible for that, they're either now the dean of the school, or a captain of industry, I'm guessing in the lucrative field of water removal.
But that's exactly the kind of memorable conceit you sometimes need for a kid's cartoon.  Something to really stick in the craw of the mind.  Which brings us to this week's Tom and Jerry called Mice Follies, where Jerry Mouse and his younger grey counterpart (unnamed in this one) do exactly that... I mean, the ice skating rink at home.  I mean, if you can't bring yourself to the rink, why not bring the rink to you?  Especially if you've got as powerful a fridge as they have in the Tom and Jerry home; powerful, yet easy to tinker with.  Who knows how many kids went home after seeing this in the theater and tried monkeying with their fridge's internals?  Of course, in 1954 a lot more homes had a fridge, so it was a timely issue.  I understand that the filmmakers had this script in mothballs for twenty years, but the studio heads rightly pointed out that middle America wouldn't understand the strange device involved.
For the audience's benefit, the door of the fridge is opened, and the grey mouse turns the temperature knob as we all watch.  Spoiler Alert: note the setting for "Quick Freeze."  It's used later on at a crucial point in the proceedings.  Combine that with a flashlight and an array of colored gelatin desserts, and boom.  Frozen tempest in a teapot complete.  Time for some mice skating.
As always, Tom, symbolizing the lazy, post-WWII American father, is late to the party.  He sees mice mayhem in his very kitchen, but doesn't put two and two together until it's too late, no pun intended.  Tom eventually learns to use his claws to gain a toehold on this strange, slippery new surface... but the ever cruel Jerry Mouse is just as quick with a pair of scissors, and clips off all of Tom's claws.  It's at this point, with all hope lost, that the two mice grab the cat by the tail, drag him along the ice to gain a little momentum, then fling the cat with all their collective might, sending the cat sailing off the ice and into a local closet.  I just don't get it!  Every time I try that with my cat, it never works!
SPOILER ALERT: Screenwriters take note.  Just before the he-cat in the closet frees himself, a pair of skis falls from their place.  Now I know what you're thinking... but you'd actually be wrong in this case!  Tom finds a pair of ice skates.  Lol.  Tom has skied before, but the arena's apparently not big enough or appropriate enough for skiing.  Well, appropriate, anyway, because once the cat has his ice skates, the size of the house seems to have increased exponentially in size, as well as the area of the ice involved.  Tom's able to keep up with the mice in the ensuing chase, almost like your proverbial glove, and he almost catches the mice if it weren't for that darned ironing board.  Ah, the ironing board, ever the nemesis of the large bad guys in these cartoons.
They also manage to throw in one of their favourite gags.  It's a subtle one for a Tom and Jerry cartoon, to be sure, and sure, maybe it doesn't happen often enough to be called a recurring gag.  Jerry thinks the coast is clear, and carefully looks to make sure.  One instant later, the chase is instantly back on, with Tom hot on Jerry's tail.  I swear that they did that once before!  If only there were some sort of computerized record of such a thing...
...where was I?  I don't know.  Anyway, back to that thermostat in the fridge, where the real seat of power is.  The grey mouse ends up back beside it.  Now, personally, I think it's because it's near the end of the film, and tactics need to be changed.  It certainly can't be because Jerry's in danger of getting caught by the cat!  That rarely seems to happen as it is, and besides, I'm pretty confident that Jerry can take care of himself.  He already de-clawed the cat, for Gawd'z zake!  (note to someone: "zake" has a red underline, but "Gawd'z" doesn't.)  But whatever the reason, the knob is turned to... let me double check... "Defrost."  That's it.  And, boom.  Cat falls flat, mouse makes getaway.  But the cat's unaware of the Seat of Power, and really just wants to mess with Jerry Mouse a little more.  Why, a seltzer bottle will do just the trick!  Ah, the seltzer bottle, the Three Stooges' best friend.  As it happens, the seltzer bottle turns out to be a rather effective tool of cruelty that the cat can use on the mouse.  Why, nothing short of a little Ice Nine could stop Tom and his seltzer bottle now!  CUE THE THERMOSTAT...
And so, everything's frozen once again, plus a little more: Tom has turned into a living, barely breathing, frozen version of himself, thereby inspiring a few special effects scenes in Batman & Robin (1997).  It was just enough for the trailers, but as it turned out, people were expecting a little more from the two hour version.  God, people are so picky.  I don't know why, but I'm still loathe to give this one four stars.  Maybe I'm just not in the mood right now, but clearly the filmmakers did something right in terms of what we now call "future-proofing," if only for me.  Clearly I have no sense of celebration of the magical in life.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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