Garfield: The Movie

Reviewed By Stephen Groenewegen
Posted 09/14/04 13:04:32

"This cat has guts"
3 stars (Average)

Garfield is a kids’ movie based on the popular comic strip about the orange cat with the droopy eyes. Garfield is rendered entirely by computer animation - the rest of the film is mostly live action.

Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) is fat and lazy and proud of it. He has a comfortable existence in a big house in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac. Work-at-home owner, Jon (Breckin Meyer), spoils Garfield rotten, even serving him lasagna for lunch. Garfield keeps up a stream of witty repartee and dry commentary, aimed mostly at Jon and the world in general, but sometimes at us. He also bullies the local animal population into doing whatever he wants, like stealing the neighbour’s milk for him.

In the two-legged world, the boyish Jon still carries a high school crush on the local vet, Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt). So when she asks him to take care of an unclaimed dog, Jon is more than happy to accept. Odie is a dachshund/cairn terrier mix, and so stupid that he cannot talk cute (a blessed relief for the audience) and is also impervious to all of Garfield’s attempts to teach him who’s boss. But everything changes when Odie goes missing...

The Garfield strip is the work of Jim Davis from Indiana, and it debuted in American newspapers back in 1978. Now, Garfield apparently appears in 2,600 newspapers worldwide and is read by 263 million people. Not surprisingly, Guinness World Records have named it the “Most Widely Syndicated Comic Strip in the World”.

John Davis produced the movie and, according to the production notes, his “many hits include the all-audience pictures Doctor Dolittle and Daddy Day Care”. “All-audience pictures”. Whatever that means, it doesn’t sound like much of a recommendation. Still, despite its irritatingly generic kids’ movie villain (Stephen Tobolowsky) and mechanical plot, Garfield is more fun than you probably expect.

For one thing, Bill Murray is less the iconic ironic of Lost in Translation, and sounds like he’s having great fun voicing this grouchy character. The visual effects teams have done a terrific job animating Garfield, and giving him believable feline mannerisms. Peter Hewitt has directed his share of movies aimed at kids (The Borrowers, Thunderpants) but he doesn’t seem bored by the material. Thankfully, the screenplay of Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (Toy Story, Cheaper by the Dozen) doesn’t try to sweeten Garfield or spoon a sugary message down our throat. In an age of terrorist-inspired fear, it’s quite a sight to see Garfield blissfully causing chaos on the New York train network, oblivious to everything but getting what he wants.

Occasionally this is an obnoxious movie. It takes too long to get going, and has scenes that spin out of control, such as an overdone sequence for the under-5s of Garfield and Odie dancing. Real animals with animated mouths are used to portray Garfield’s talking friends and the effect is clumsy and nasty and cheap looking. But the silliest things - Garfield hiding from a pack of dogs by leaping up a woman’s dress - got me laughing. And I felt unaccountably grateful to the filmmakers for celebrating Garfield’s gleeful irresponsibility and irredeemable laziness.

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