Silver Screen Cinema

The Garfield Movie Review

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Photo of Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt

Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG

101 Minutes

Directed by: Mark Dindal

Starring: Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson


The Garfield Movie Poster

Say what you will about the two live-action-hybrid Garfield movies from 20 years ago, but there’s one fact you can’t deny. Bill Murray was the perfect voice for Garfield. Audiences believed that if Garfield could talk, he would sound like Bill Murray. It’s a new animation era in 2024 and a new film, The Garfield Movie. The live actors from the earlier “Garfield” movies are gone… fortunately. Bill Murray is also gone… unfortunately. Most unfortunately, nearly every trace of the Garfield character that has graced the comic pages for 60 years is also gone. He’s been replaced by an orange cat that could have come from almost any animated film in the last 60 years. The result resembles what you’ll find in Garfield’s litter box.

The Garfield Movie begins with a flashback in which Garfield (Chris Pratt) tells the story of how he first met his owner, Jon (Nicholas Hoult). As a kitten, Garfield was left by his father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson) across the street from an

Italian restaurant where Jon was having dinner. Jon took pity on the kitten with its face pressed against the window and let Garfield inside. The result was Garfield eating half the food in the restaurant, starting with Jon’s pizza. When Jon realized the kitten had no place to go, he adopted Garfield, leading to the happy family audiences know from the comic strip.

The next few minutes of the movie will be the only part that will seem familiar to comics fans. An adult Garfield pulls tricks on Jon’s other pet, Odie the dog, eats copious amounts of lasagna, and watches Catflix (streaming cat videos) on TV. (The Catflix joke is one of the few genuinely funny moments in the movie.) That idyllic existence is interrupted when Garfield and Odie are abducted by a pair of henchdogs working for a Persian cat, Jinx (Hannah Waddingham). She and Vic used to be part of the same gang. However, when their attempted milk robbery from Lactose Farms went sour, she was left holding the bag and sent off to the pound. Now, she’s out and demands that Vic and Garfield pull off another milk heist… or else. Because Garfield is mad at Vic for abandoning him and both are out of shape, they enlist the aid of the farm’s former mascot, Otto the Bull (Ving Rhames), to whip them into shape.

From this brief synopsis, readers can see the structure of The Garfield Movie falling into place. Much of its last half is an elaborate heist film like Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible movies. To make sure audiences understand the reference, the filmmakers mention Cruise several times and cast Mission Impossible co-star Ving Rhames in a prominent role. This movie’s climactic set piece is an elaborate bit featuring Garfield launching himself toward a speeding train, a “stunt” that mimics what Cruise did in the last “MI” movie. Of course, there’s a vast difference between actual actors and stunt persons performing such a leap and an animated cat doing so. The latter doesn’t have to obey the laws of physics and is impervious to actual harm. As a result, the set piece becomes elaborate, unfunny slapstick, a 21st-century version of Tom and Jerry’s antics.

When Garfield and Vic aren’t risking animated life and limb pulling their heist, The Garfield Movie falls back on its second well-worn trope: the father-son bonding movie. Technically, this revelation might be considered a spoiler since Garfield doesn’t realize the depth of Vic’s feelings towards him until almost the end. But anyone who has ever seen a parental bonding movie, regardless of the species or animation status involved, knows what will happen ever since the movie’s introductory scene. The big emotional moments might impress the eight-year-olds in the audience but not their parents, who have seen them coming for an hour.

These two overriding themes illustrate what’s wrong with The Garfield Movie. Either could (but didn’t) form the basis for an entertaining animated film, but it wouldn’t have been a Garfield movie. Except for a few stray lasagna references, this film’s Garfield could have been Tom, Sylvester, Felix, Fritz, or any other animated cat in the last century. Nor do Chris Pratt’s bland vocals give Garfield any personality. For 60 years, cartoonist Jim Davis has reinforced the Garfield persona by providing daily three-panel reminders of a handful of traits. His Garfield is lazy, loves lasagna, hates Mondays, and torments Odie. Pratt’s Garfield is instead a cross between Tom Cruise and Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams.

To borrow a Garfield analogy, The Garfield Movie reminded me of an Italian restaurant with one decent appetizer hiding in the menu’s depths. A few jokes were funny. (I enjoyed the gimmick of Jinx’s fur turning green or red to match her emotions in a scene.) However, the heist material was handled much better and funnier in Chicken Run, and the bonding scenes were much, much better in the Kung Fu Panda films. Children may like the colorful action, but even they may tire towards the end of the 100-minute run time. Adults must instead yearn to hear Bill Murray’s voice again to help get them through this latest Garfield flop.

In this clip, Garfield the kitten wreaks havoc in an Italian restaurant:

Watch Garfield on Amazon Prime Video:

Garfield the Movie Streaming
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties Streaming
Garfield Specials Streaming

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