Review: Garfield (2004)

Garfield

Garfield

Rating



Director

Peter Hewitt

Screenplay

Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow (Comic: Jim Davis)

Length

80 min.

Starring

Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Murray, Alan Cumming, Brad Garrett, Jimmy Kimmel, Debra Messing, David Eigenberg, Nick Cannon

MPAA Rating

PG (For brief mild language)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Source Material

Review

Growing up, my favorite comic strip in the world was Garfield. That fat cat and his sarcastic wit made me laugh. Now, a new generation of comic strip lovers is discovering that orange hair ball in a new, part live-action, part animated motion picture.

The only animated creature in the film is Garfield himself voiced by comedian Bill Murray. He’s a lazy, irritable house cat whose owner Jon (Breckin Meyer) spoils him horribly. When the veterinarian he has a crush on, Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt), asks him to bring home a dog named Odie, Garfield becomes instantly jealous and locks Odie outside where he roams the street looking for companionship.

Enter the pet-hating opportunist Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky) who’s desperate to branch out into more respectable fair. He kidnaps Odie in an attempt to take the “dancing” dog on a whirlwind excursion to the big time. Garfield begins a loan trek to find Odie and bring him home while Jon and Liz do legwork of a different kind looking for the loveable pup.

Garfield is a far cry from the comic. There, Jon and Liz never had unsuccessful dates, never a relationship. Nermal was an androgenous gray cat with similar markings to Garfield who was consistently shipped to Abu Dhabi and in this film is a Siamese cat and is voiced by a decidedly male actor. Garfield feline love interest Arlene (Debra Messing) was tall and thin but here is grey-coated and average sized. Jon is not terribly neurotic and is modestly trendy when his comic-based counterpart was decidedly uncoordinated and fashion inept.

The story, written by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, departs dramatically from the strip and even the television cartoon adaptation. It puts the characters into situations that are either atypical or downright laughable. The film has some very inspiring moments, but overall the screenplay is weak and unwieldy. Director Peter Hewitt doesn’t assist in the matter, leading the actors into sub-par performances.

Bill Murray does a terrific job capturing the Garfield’s nuances but can never compare to the fantastically talented Lorenzo Music whose passing should have signaled the end for animated or live-action takes on the comic. Meyer, Love Newitt and Tobolowsky are atrocious; none of whom show us any semblance of creativity or genuine emotion. They walk mindlessly through the script without heed for its shortcomings and don’t seem to want to break free and give a performance that’s credible.

For fans of the comic strip, Garfield is a severe disappointment. The in-jokes and sight gags that made the newspaper daily funny are either pushed aside, like Garfield often does to Odie, or absent altogether. The fans feel as if they are being treated like the famed canine in an effort to assuage the inner beast of the studio. Regular audiences will likely not notice a difference and, even so, may not enjoy the obvious tameness of the spectacle. Viewers never adopt a love for Garfield as he becomes more cynical and rude than ever before. It’s as if the creators didn’t want to salute the line-drawn original and instead re-wrote the history in favor of a money-making profit trend for resurrecting cult properties.

Review Written

July 11, 2004

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