The Garfield Movie

The Garfield Movie
The Garfield Movie
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Almost five decades down the line, Garfield is still the same way Jim Davis drew him: being a lazy tabby who loves lasagna, hates Mondays and has a nonchalant attitude towards his owner Jon Arbuckle. Although the cat hasn’t changed, every other thing around it has and evidence of this is visible in The Garfield Movie. The movie begins with the world’s most famous kitten ordering Italian comfort food via online delivery like Grubhub on its smartphone. Everyone in this highly energized kids’ cartoon is obsessed with their little screens. Forever lovelorn Jon (Nicholas Hoult) might consider packing up and signing onto Bumble.” A central plot device involves an app that can translate meows into human language.” Even her villain—a Persian Feline Fatale played by Hannah Waddingham—records and immediately replays her jump-scare entrance through a mobile phone.

How to render Garfield relevant to Gen Z kids who cannot put down their devices or their parents who follow them everywhere? Must he turn into a junkie for smartphones?

On another front, The Garfield Movie gets back to basics. It is worth noting that it returns us back to cartoon after two terrible 2000s comedies that featured an ugly CGI cat voiced by Bill Murray with an amusingly transparent lack of interest amidst live-action environment. This version looks more like the real Garfield because the computer animation does a better job of imitating comic strips simple stroke art as well as big-eyed look. Now Siri sounds just like Chris Pratt while doing Woody from Toy Story! All things considered, there’s something good about casting Pratt: his voice work tends to be so devoid of personality that fans can easily substitute whatever they picture Garfield to sound like themselves.

Davis’ style isn’t as easily transformed into film format as those before him may have thought. On newsprint, though, Garfield functions as a repetitive, everyday comedy machine – a day-to-day joke centered on the cat’s near-static deadpan. This is covered in less than five minutes during The Garfield Movie (2004) with a montage of clips featuring napping, eating too much and having fun with Jon’s speechless pet Odie (whose sounds seem to be made by Harvey Guillén instead of being easily recognizable). Yet the film’s heft lies in its noisier, more frenetic plot which sees Garfield get caught up in a heist that involves his estranged father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson yet another Marvel paycheck-casher) introduced to us through an opening flashback clearly designed to create interest for a round-eyed, kitten-Garfield plush.

Most of the action takes place at the dairy farm where Waddingham’s vengeful Jinx forces them into committing robbery once again; it is also a setting that will ring bells among millennial fans of Garfield as paying tribute to his late 80s/early 90s Saturday morning sitcom “and friends” farmyard segment. Here we meet a stoic bull (Ving Rhames), embittered after years playing corporate mascot. As some sort of sly reference to Garfield as an enduring cash cow? And there are plenty of jokes for parents present; when Rhames’ bovine character is finally brought back together with his female cow partner, Marvin Gaye comes up on the soundtrack while they get busy offscreenified.

Animation veteran Mark Dindal directs the gags, and there are a few moments that tease a more unleashed slapstick family film in the vein of his delightfully madcap The Emperor’s New Groove. There’s some fun to be had with the bad guys, including a classic Tex Avery big-and-little duo of henchdogs (one of them voiced by Waddingham’s Ted Lasso costar Brett Goldstein) and a Cecily Strong-voiced security officer plainly, strangely modeled on the “Minnesota nice” of Fargo’s Marge Gunderson. Meanwhile, in an exceedingly unexpected sequencing pattern within the plant – cheese-related death traps such as one where Garfield is standing on while being grated by a rampaging conveyor – Star Wars: Episode II–Attack of the Clones comes to mind. And so Dindal also steps back for two quick specially drawn side trips; if you ever wondered what Garfield would look like if he were put into animation similar to Rocky and Bullwinkle, this movie does that.

However mostly though, the director seems neutered by the demands of a studio animation project eager to pander to kids and adults alike. The Garfield Movie gets downright Shrekian in its flurry of pop-culture references – another break from the cultural-vacuum quality Davis adopted as a way to make sure his comic strip crossed borders with ease. Was anyone dying to hear Garfield call himself “G-money” or crack jokes about Shark Tank? And why all the Tom Cruise nodding, starting from name-dropping that is direct to simply airing both Mission: Impossible and Top Gun scores lazily? Speaking of dopey music cues, The Garfield Movie leans heavily on a single, unremarkable tie-in single by Jon Batiste that it rolls no fewer than three times over a hectic 90 minutes.

None of this should offend Davis at all. After all he has been quite open about the little mercantile interests behind Garfield, a character he created to have as much appeal and sellability as possible; hence why his main traits – gluttony and slothfulness – reflect universal human needs. The play for lowest-common denominator paid off: His strip is the most widely syndicated in history, and a total merchandise gold mine. In The Garfield Movie, it finally gives way to just plain advertising vehicles disguised as jokes. It’s only then that the film hits its true source material: a piggy bank shaped like a smiling house pet singing Walmart’s praises.


The Garfield Movie brings back the orange tabby cat into animation after those regrettable Bill Murray live-action adaptations with promising echoes of the simple art work of its comic-strip inspiration. Unfortunately, what it really takes from the Jim Davis material is a shameless cynicism, evident in the corporate product placement and pandering pop-culture references. Chris Pratt’s phoned-in performance as a phone-addicted Garfield doesn’t help. Neither does a plot determined to give the lazy feline some unresolved daddy issues. Kids might be mildly entertained, but that doesn’t make this less of a hairball

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