Bill Murray as Garfield (voice)
Breckin Meyer as Jon
Jennifer Love Hewitt as Liz
Stephen Tobolowsky as Happy Chapman
Evan Arnold as Wendell
Mark Christopher Lawrence as Christopher Mello
Nick Cannon as Louis (voice)
Alan Cumming as Persnikitty (voice)
David Eigenberg as Nermal (voice)
Brad Garrett as Luca (voice)
Jimmy Kimmel as Spanky (voice)
Debra Messing as Arlene (voice)
“Garfield: The Movie” works as a children’s film, but adult Garfield fans may be disappointed by the lack of big laughs and the boring human characters.
“Garfield: The Movie” is based on the long running comic strip by Jim Davis.
Garfield is a fat, lazy orange cat that loves his teddy bear Pooky, hates Mondays, and craves lasagna. His owner (or servant, depending on your point of view) is the kind and lovable Jon. Garfield has complete control of his house, cul-de-sac, and neighbors and that’s just the way he likes it.
However, when Jon agrees to take in a dog from the vet he has a crush on, Garfield’s world is thoroughly rocked. Odie proceeds to win the heart of Jon, intrude on Garfield’s turf, and generally make life miserable for the spoiled cat. When Garfield kicks Odie out of the house one night, the dimwitted dog runs away from home and gets lost. While Jon frantically searches for Odie, Garfield believes all of his problems are solved. However, he soon begins to regret running off Odie and he begins to search for the dopey canine. But will the selfish Garfield be willing to venture beyond the safety of his cul-de-sac in order to save the day?
“Garfield: The Movie” is rated PG for brief mild language.
I remember back in the 70’s and 80’s reading the Garfield comic strip religiously as a kid. I loved the humor of the comic and I also remember that you were one of the cool kids at school if you had the latest Garfield book. But as I got older, either my tastes changed or the strips became unfunny because I didn’t enjoy it as much. It finally got to the point where I stopped reading it altogether. But in any case, I am very much familiar with the characters of the comic. Based on that, I can say they nailed the personality of Garfield.
Garfield seems to be lifted directly from the comics for this movie. He has his teddy bear Pooky. He eats lasagna. He insults Jon. He fights with Odie. He outsmarts the neighborhood dogs. He hates Mondays. It’s all here. They even have him dance and sing like in the comics. And having him voiced by Bill Murray was absolutely perfect. Their personalities and dry sense of humor are perfectly matched and Murray’s voice fits the fat, lazy cat well.
The Garfield effects are also impressive. Though this CG doesn’t break any new ground, it is a good merging of the cartoon character and real life cat characteristics. The hair on Garfield is finely detailed and the only thing missing is him shedding all over the place. But the real life animals are entertaining, too. The dog that plays Odie is about as good of a real life match as you could get for the comic strip character. He does plenty of tricks and is lovable.
I took my wife and kids to this screening and it was a pleasant family outing. It was a bit of nostalgia for my wife and I while my 2 and 5 year olds were entertained by the antics of Garfield and Odie. Any time Garfield was on the screen, they sat completely still and gave their undivided attention to the movie (which is a major feat). And since Garfield was on the screen 90% of the time, they sat still for almost the whole movie. They loved it when Garfield and Odie danced and they got a big kick out of the fat cat being abused. (There’s hope for them yet!) Since there aren’t many movies that I can take the whole family to, this ended up being a major plus for “Garfield: The Movie” and one of the reasons I rated it higher. Otherwise, I probably would have given this film a lower rating.
What Didn’t Work:
One of the biggest problems with “Garfield: The Movie” is that it is simply not that funny. Like the comics of late, it relies way too heavily on “I Hate Monday” jokes and “lazy” jokes. They were old in the 80’s and they are old now. When I saw the trailers for Garfield, I was hoping that they were saving the best and funniest material for the film. Well, they weren’t. What you see in the trailers and commercials is what you get. That is especially frustrating because so often the film has great comic potential only to pass right by it and rely on weaker jokes. Looking back, the older Garfield comics were funny because of their biting or twisted sense of humor. In them, Jon was a bit of a loser and a bumbling idiot. That made him funny and the butt of many jokes, but in this movie Breckin Meyer is simply cute and sweet. He’s almost nothing more than something for the CG Garfield to interact with. The same goes with Liz. In the comic she would constantly shoot Jon down and spurn his lame advances. Here, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, she’s also cute and sweet. Rather than coming up with new jokes or relying on what made the original comics funny, they ignored it to make an ultimately tepid film. Cats have all sorts of great comic potential, but none of it is taken advantage of.
And despite the fact that Garfield and Odie are very close to their comic incarnations, Garfield fans will be annoyed to find out that Nermal is no longer the “world’s cutest kitten”. Instead, he is now a dopey friend of Garfield’s and a Siamese. Why was this change necessary? Garfield was often at his funniest when he was harassing the kitten. Nermal would have been great for a sequel, too. It ends up being yet another opportunity for great comedy thrown aside.
Another gripe about “Garfield: The Movie” is the blatant use of product placements in the film. There are multiple glaring ads for Wendy’s, Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blasted Goldfish Crackers, Pepsi, and more. There’s even a baffling highlight of Fox’s “Best Damn Sports Show”. Huh? Every time one of these products came up on the screen, I had to roll my eyes and try not to puke up a hairball. I also have to horribly admit that my kids wanted to go to Wendy’s to find Garfield toys after seeing the movie, so it worked. (For the record, they didn’t have them in stores yet.)
The Bottom Line:
What it all comes down to is that “Garfield: The Movie” is a kid’s movie. Children should love it and adults will probably only find it mildly amusing. Cat lovers and Garfield fans will enjoy it more, though.