GARFIELD: THE MOVIE
The film is certainly faithful to the details of the comic-strip all the characters from Jon to Liz, Nermal, Odie and Pookie the teddy bear are up on the screen and there are all the familiar jokes about eating lasagne and watching tv. Alas, Garfields big screen incarnation feels less like an event than simply another film that falls into the big screen fad for conducting talking animal movies in live-action that was created by the success of Babe (1995) and has also included the likes of 101 Dalmatians (1996), MouseHunt (1997), Dr Dolittle (1998), Stuart Little (1999), Cats & Dogs (2001), Racing Stripes (2005), Charlottes Web (2006), Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007), Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008), G-Force (2009), Furry Vengeance (2010), Yogi Bear (2010), Hop (2011), Zookeeper (2011), Paddington (2014) and The Jungle Book (2016). The comic strip is written with a wry irony as the lazy title cat reflects on the foibles of human behaviour. However, what works as a three-panel strip that builds to a dry punchline does not work particularly well as a dramatic film. Forced to extend the three-panel gags out to a plot, all that Garfield ends up doing is coming across as another of the smartass talking animals that populate much of modern childrens fantasy film. The crucial difference is that the audience for the humour in the Garfield newspaper strip is adults, while the audience for the film is clearly intended as children.
Here the character of Garfield has been grafted onto a standard plot that feels distilled from every other talking animal movie Garfield must venture away from his comfort zone into the big city to conduct a rescue a la Stuart Little 2 (2002); Stephen Tobolowsky is a one-dimensional cartoon villain cut from the mould of Cruella de Ville; there is a good deal of slapstick action with animals causing chaos; there is even a romance between the two human animal owners a la One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). The film ends up resembling less a comic observation on pets and their owners than it does a variation on Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) where the animals talk. It is all very one-dimensional the human characters barely even register Jennifer Love Hewitt has no other purpose in the film than to wear outfits that prominently show off her legs. Such a cutsie one-dimensional plot somehow seems unbefitting for a character like Garfield.
In the end, you might compare the film to its title character a lazy effort that sits there and makes the most minimal attempt to do anything. Mindedly, the comparison falls down in that Garfield has a cynical shrewdness and can outfox all the others around him. In truth, the film bears more of a resemblance to the character of Odie it has some cute dancing tricks but not a brain in its body.
Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties/Garfield 2 (2006) was a cinematically released sequel, featuring return performances from Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Bill Murray. There was a further series of dvd-released animated films with Garfield Gets Real (2007), Garfields Fun Fest (2008) and Garfields Pet Force (2009). In an amusing touch, Bill Murray gets to make snide comments, stating that Garfield is the only thing he ever regretted doing in his dying scenes in Zombieland (2009).
Garfield was directed by Peter Hewitt, who has a racked up a number of genre credits elsewhere. Hewitt also directed Bill and Teds Bogus Journey (1991); the miniature people film The Borrowers (1997); Whatever Happened to Harold Smith? (1999), a coming of age comedy about a man with psychic powers; Thunderpants (2002), a childrens film about a kid with super-powerful farts; the superhero film Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006); and Mostly Ghostly: Have You Met My Ghoulfriend? (2014). Hewitt is also credited with the story for Thunderbirds (2004).