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Roy Allen Smith
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Karateguard was intended to be a comeback-short by the original creators of Tom and Jerry, namely Joseph Barbera, and William Hanna. It was written and directed by Joe Barbera himself (Since Mr Hanna passed away in 2001), with the help by Spike Brandt. Back to the old formula! Sounds great, doesn't it? Unfortunately, this cartoon just doesn't live up to the legacy of the original MGM theatrical series, made by Hanna-Barbera.
It's not a terribly bad film on it's own, it's just uninspired, unoriginal, surprisingly unfunny, and incoherent, compared to to the old series. However, the comparsion is inevitable, since it's been directed by one of the original creators, who's already proved his genius in animation. But not this time.
The story starts with Jerry, practicing Karate. Why? we don't know. There's not much build-up. Since it doesn't work out against tom, the spirit of his old master appears (who?), and gives him a magic gong, which summons a huge samurai dog. Pretty much the same stuff, as "The bodyguard", or "Fit to be tied". Only this way, there's no emotional connection between Jerry and his guard. He's stiff and distant, which is kind of funny, due to it's animation, but not very likable or interesting. There's also a segment, where they go into a toystore, and fly some toy-planes... Why not use only one or another? We've already seen whole episodes built up on each concept, and they worked out wonderfully.
But that's only one of the problems. The whole film has that very weird kind of pacing that many early 90's series had. It's fluid, it's followable, but has a few bumps, which ruin the rhythm (this has to be credited to Brandt). The problem with this, that it makes the jokes less funny. The timing is just not right with most of them. And even the jokes aren't that creative. There are just so many ways that dog could beat up Tom, and we only get a handful of them.
The colors are bizarre, again, they resemble something from the 90's, which is a huge step back, compared to the cozy, tasteful and elegant colors of the 40's and 50's. Same goes to the character design.
Camera movement seems to be senseless, and thoughtless sometimes. Where it doesn't wave to move, it shouldn't.
The music is okay, but still doesn't quite match up with the originals. All in all, a huge disappointment. Too bad, this was Joe Barberas swansong. It should've been spectacular, but instead it's unbearably mediocre and underwhelming.
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