The Garfield Movie – movie review

Garfield, the lazy, pizza- and lasagne-loving cat created by cartoonist Jim Davis 48 years ago has become part of pop culture. He has appeared in a daily comic strip published in some 2500 newspapers around the world and is the most syndicated comic strip in the world. He has also appeared in several books, animated TV series, and two live action movies with Bill Murray providing the sarcastic voice for the CGI-created Garfield.

The Garfield Movie gives audiences a backstory of how Garfield met his owner Jon Arbuckle (voiced here by Nicholas Hoult). Garfield (Chris Pratt) is a kitten who was left in a cardboard box in a darkened alley by his deadbeat father Vic (Samuel L Jackson). While wandering around the street in the rain trying to find his father Garfield spots Jon dining in a nearby Italian restaurant. Drawn by the allure of the pizza smell Garfield approaches the restaurant and Jon takes pity on him. The two form an immediate connection and Jon takes Garfield home. Before too long Garfield has taken control of the house and the refrigerator and is annoying Odie (Harvey Guillen) Jon’s pet dog.

But from this point in the film much of the appeal of the character has been lost in this big screen adaptation written by Paul Kaplan, Mark Torgove and David Reynolds. They introduce a generic plot device that essentially turns the lazy Garfield into an action hero that is far removed from Davis’ original vision and dumps him right into the middle of a fast and furious stunt-driven Mission: Impossible like caper adventure that is far removed from Davis’ concept for the character. (However, Davis himself is still credited as one of the producers of the project so one has to presume that he approved these changes).

One night Garfield and Odie are kidnapped by a pair of dogs in the employ of Jinx (voiced by Hannah Waddingham, recently seen in The Fall Guy), a felonious feline who has a score to settle with Vic. When Vic races in to rescue Garfield he finds him and Garfield drawn into Jinx’s plot to steal milk from Lactose Farms, a milk factory. The subplot depicting the complicated and complex relationship between Garfield and his estranged father aims to give the film its emotional resonance.

The Garfield Movie is directed by Mark Dindal, a former Disney animator whose previous credits include The Emperor’s New Groove, etc. He has assembled a solid vocal cast to bring the characters to life.

Pratt perfected his affable and sardonic charm on the TV series Parks and Recreation and the Guardians of the Galaxy sci-fi franchise, and he is a surprising but perfect fit for the sarcastic Garfield. Jackson reins in his usually profanity laden persona here as Vic. Ving Rhames voices Ollie, the bull and former mascot for Lactose Farms before the factory was taken over by a corporation. He is separated from his girlfriend Ethel (Alicia Grace), the cow. Marge (voiced by Cecily Strong) is the dedicated and overly officious animal control officer who becomes involved in trying to thwart the attempted heist. And Jinx’s sidekicks Roland and Nolan provide some humour with their odd couple dynamic.

But this new Garfield movie may not hold the same appeal for a younger contemporary audience who do not really have much affection or connection to the character.

Greg King

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