Garfield: The Movie
2004, PG, 75 min. Directed by Peter Hewitt. Voices by Bill Murray, Alan Cumming, Debra Messing, Nick Cannon, Brad Garrett. Starring Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stephen Tobolowsky, Eve Brent.
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., June 11, 2004
You’d have to be a real asshole to hate this movie, loaded as it is with adorable animals. Sadly the task falls to me. This Garfield is everything Jim Davis’ eponymous cartoon isn’t – busy, ingratiating, too-cute, and smarmy – and nothing it is – dyspeptic, laconic, subversively attuned to the inner lives of animals while their humans bumble and cater. As a creation, Garfield is pure id, even cruel, pursuing his own gratification at any cost. This movie, however, declaws him. Plus, you’ll have not one but two scenes of the CGI feline shakin’ it to "I Feel Good" and bouncing to Baha Men. Don’t count on Murray (who voices the cat) to add bite to the product, though I did get a fleeting chuckle when Garfield zooms up the muumuu of a Margaret Dumont-like matron and shrieks, "Move it out, Pinky!" It’s a rare moment of anarchy in a bland sea of warm fuzzies about friendship and loyalty. Just the same, voice actor Lorenzo Music’s sluggish charm is missing here (Music provided the voice of Garfield for numerous TV specials), and one half of one’s brain expects Garfield to whip out a snifter of Santory. (As it is, the product placement is way over-the-top. Petco, are you listening? We see through you.) The story begins when Jon (Meyer) takes in the wirehaired dachshund Odie at the behest of comely veterinarian Liz (Love Hewitt), prompting Garfield to pout and croon "New Dog State of Mind." But wait! A loathsome pet-show host (Tobolowsky) dognaps the pooch, and it’s up to Garfield to save him from shock-collared celebrity status. Hijinks ensue, building up to a climactic showdown at Animal Control. (Really, to say that gives nothing away.) Director Hewitt packs the frame with as many pound puppies and fur balls as possible, a heart-melting spectacle so calculated and hollow one pines for the animal actors of yore, who had real plot arcs and personalities. Much has been made over Garfield’s high tech rendering, surrounded as he is by the real thing, but that’s the least of the movie’s problems. Meyer is a human bowl of oatmeal, and Love Hewitt has been attired in straight short skirts so constricting she bobbles around like a blow-up doll set free on the common by fraternity pranksters. I liked Cumming as the voice of an exasperated feline who suffers the indignities of performing with Tobolowsky; the cat seems to be longing for the chance to jump off the film’s set and scratch somebody’s eyes out. Maybe this happens in the post-credits outtakes. Also note the high cartoon-violence factor: Garfield falls off a skyscraper, gets blasted through a system of air ducts, and is otherwise beaten to a furry pulp. Movies for children don’t have to be pap, and it’s not wrong to hold them to standards of artistic and narrative value. Rather, it’s all the more important that family entertainment inspires and delights young minds. Even Hewitt seems to know this: Perhaps that’s why he cuts in footage from Benji and Lassie movies. Heck, The Cat From Outer Space smells like a rose by comparison.