June 15, 2005
Starring: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Murray, Evan Arnold, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Vanessa Christelle, Daamen J. Krall, Rufus Gifford, Randee Reicher, Ryan McKasson, Susan Moore, Eve Brent, Bill Hoag, Michael Monks, ,
And so the laconic lasagne-loving fat orange cat finally makes it to the big screen, now an entirely CGI creation, but will his fanbase go along for the ride? The answer is probably no, and Jonathan Frakes will probably tell you why after his disastrous big-screen version of another kid’s favourite, Thunderbirds. Trouble is, the kids who enjoyed Garfield in his cartoon days will now be all growed up and have an implausibly high expectancy of how he should be portrayed in a movie. Even if the transition is a success, chances are said fans will be disappointed in some way. So it’s best to approach the movie with fresh eyes.
You can tell pretty much from the opening shot that we’re in a kid’s film, where earth-shattering problems revolve around when Garfield will get his breakfast and if his owner Jon will get up the courage to ask out the pretty local vet Liz, but thanks to a perfectly-cast Bill Murray who provides the voice, Garfield as a character is a success. It’s just a shame that just about everything else falls flat. Breckin Meyer is constrained to bland nothingness and an undernourished Jennifer Love Hewitt remains little more than eye-candy as she and Jon embark on an A-B-C courtship that will cause even the film’s eight-year-old target audience to groan.
A very simple story sees Garfield in his element at home, waited on hand and foot by Jon, until a visit to the vet turns his world upside down. Odie the dog quickly takes over and a jealous Garfield must hatch a scheme to get rid of him. The two of them start to become unwitting friends but then Odie is kidnapped by a sneaky kid’s entertainer (Stephen ‘Ned Ryerson’ Tobolowsky) looking for a new animal act and it’s up to Garfield to save the hapless pup from his clutches. Okay, so it’s for kids, but the villain just isn’t evil enough for us to fear for Odie’s safety and the less said about Jon and Liz’s efforts the better. But the fun comes from Garfield forcing himself to get off his butt and search for Odie (a particularly amusing gag sees him puffing for breath before we cut to a wideshot and sees he’s only made it as far as the curb outside his house).
Garfield is the star of the show, and rightly so, but whenever he’s not on screen your mind starts to wander (would it have been so difficult to give Meyer and Hewitt something more interesting to do?). The Harry Knowles internet crowd probably choked on their Doritos when they heard that Garfield would be entirely CGI, but the animation fits in perfectly with Murray’s voice, whether he’s dancing or being petted by Jon, and you genuinely get a sense that his flabby bulk is really there with the actors. And for $35 million spent on him alone, you would hope so.
Garfield: The Movie will keep the under-tens happy for ninety minutes, and even mums and dads will catch the odd giggle thanks to Murray (whilst imprisoned in a cage Garfield asks for shoelaces) but you can’t help but feel this is a wasted opportunity. If only the time and effort that went into the brilliant special effects had gone into the script. So overall it’s amiable, unchallenging fun and not the kid’s classic it could have been, but that’s just an adult’s point of view. Kid’s will love it.
A commentary with director Peter Hewitt and producer John Davis (not to be confused with Jim Davis, the original creator of Garfield) largely consists of the technical problems involved shooting a movie where your main character isn’t there, and was recorded before the film opened and flopped (hence their cheerfulness). The deleted scenes vary in regard to Garfield’s CGI quality since he takes so long to render and mainly show scenes cut for pacing, such as Garfield sneaking onto a bus or, bizarrely, footage of two black guys dancing that you eventually realise is the basis of the Odie/Garfield dance in the movie. There’s also a brief Making Of that predictably focuses on the visual effects, two interactive games and an Inside Look at the new computer-animated film ‘Robots’.