I admit to having really low expectations for Garfield: The Movie before I even stepped into the theatre. It isn’t fair, but I couldn’t help it. The trailers looked bad and I wasn’t exactly happy about a few of the directorial decisions. Taking all of that into account, Garfield was even worse than I imagined.
Garfield has become a staple of Americana over its twenty some odd years of comic strips and every product that creator Jim Davis has slapped Garfield’s face on has only furthered his status. The comic strip is basically about a bumbling John, an arrogant cat, and a stupid dog. Throw in a touch of laziness and lasagna loving and you have Garfield the comic. Garfield has also in the past branched into a Saturday morning cartoon and holiday specials with decent results. Unfortunately for Garfield fans, Garfield: The Movie manages to show less depth than a weekday, four panel, comic strip. If you want to see Garfield animated, go rent the “Garfield Halloween Special.” If you want 78 minutes of bad writing and boredom then do I have a movie for you!
Garfield, voiced by Bill Murray, is lord of his manor while his supposed owner Jon Arbuckle (Meyer) does what he is supposed to; feed Garfield. After a few agonizing scenes of Garfield uttering ten year old pop culture references (Got milk wasn’t funny then), his life becomes upturned at the local veterinarians office. Jon’s crush on veterinarian Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) leads to him schedule unnecessary vet visits with Garfield. Gone is the dorky Jon from the comic strip, we now have a regular everyday guy who is actually appealing to Liz. Garfield doesn’t much like sharing Jon’s attention with Liz but he gets an even bigger shock when she asks Jon to adopt a dog, Odie. I am quite perplexed as to why Garfield is CGI and Odie is not. Heck, Odie doesn’t even look like Odie! I can only assume that they could tell the movie was going to tank and decided to save money on additional computer imagery.
The introduction of Odie doesn’t propel the story though. We continue with mundane jokes and horrible writing. One of the film’s screenwriters is Joel Cohen, who’s big claim to fame is once writing for Entertainment Weekly and contributing to VH-1 shows like The Best Week Ever and I Love the 80’s. His job at EW and on VH-1 was to be a wise ass and making fun of other people’s work. I think just Joel lost a bit of credibility in that department.
For a movie only 82 minutes long, Garfield moves agonizingly slow. The pace picks up slightly well over half way through when Happy Chapman (Tobolowsky), dognaps Odie and the search for him begins. Chapman is a typical under developed bad guy with a penchant for domination. In this case, Chapman has hopes on having a regular act with Odie on “Good Morning New York”. Not exactly, world domination, but hey, at least he has a life plan!
Garfield: The Movie suffers from Director Peter Hewitt’s lack of vision, horribly amateurish writing, and a cast made up of a hottie, a nottie, and the guy who said “Hey Phil, I’m Ned Ryerson, BING!” a long time ago in an actually good Bill Murray movie. Meyer seems comfortable playing forgettable roles even if he has moderate talent. Hewitt’s character is equally underwhelming but at least she wears mini-skirts in every scene!
Garfield hits the big screen 10-15 years after it should have. It’s lateness is supposed to excused since they were waiting on computer technology to improve enough to make Garfield believable looking. It’s a shame that they couldn’t write a story worth the wait.