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JC Reviews: The Garfield movie is a big, fat nothing

Garfield

by James Coulter

If you don't know who Garfield is… then you know who Garfield is! For more than 40 years, Garfield has been the most famous orange cat in comics. In fact, the only other orange cartoon cat, Heathcliff, is notorious for being confused with him – even though Heathcliff's comic debuted five years before Garfield's!

Garfield has appeared in comic strips, Saturday morning cartoons, animated TV specials, live-action movies, video games, theme parks, and most famously, car windshields. Now, 18 years after his last movie, A Tale of Two Kitties, this big cat star is making his big return to the screen. But will the screen be able to handle this big cat star in his next big adventure? Or will audiences end up liking this move as much as Garfield loves his montages?

The Garfield movie begins with the titular cat as a scrawny little kitten. After being abandoned by his father, Garfield is adopted by Jon and eventually grows up to be a lazy, lasagna-eating fat cat. One night, he and his canine companion Odie are unintentionally reunited with his father when his father's former accomplice ropes them all into a robbery. Now Garfield must work with his estranged father to pull off the biggest milk heist of the century. Will the two rekindle their relationship and complete their mission? Or will this milk heist go awry?

I've been a huge Garfield fan since I was a kid. I loved watching Garfield and Friends every Saturday and reading the comics on Sunday. I played a Garfield video game on the Sega Game Gear. I even quite enjoyed the 2004 live-action film starring Bill Murray – even though he thought it was his worst acting role, and all because he assumed the film was directed by the Cohen brothers and not Joel Cohen! (The 2006 sequel, on the other hand, belongs in the litter box.) Since I'm a lifelong Garfield fan, you'd think I'd enjoy this film, right?

Well, I liked this movie the way Garfield loves montages. And spiders. And Binky the clown. That is, I didn't like it at all.

You have to admit, the animation looked pretty good. The art style does capture the cartoon aspect of the Garfield comics, but not so much that it looks like a comic book come to life. If you're expecting an innovative art style like Spider-Verse or The Peanuts Movie – well, this movie isn't it!

Chris Pratt as Garfield is – good! He's just good. I love Chris Pratt. He's my favorite actor of all time. I loved him as Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. And I loved him as Mario in the Super Mario Bros. movie. And to his credit, he manages to capture the snarky personality of the fat cartoon cat. I don't know. He certainly does a better job than Bill Murray, but at the end of the day, the late Lorenzo Music will always be the definitive voice for Garfield, so much so that there will never be an adequate replacement.

And as for the story itself? Well, stop me if you've heard this before: A character is separated from his long-lost father and later reunited with him…yes, we've heard it all before! At first they don't get along. Then they do. But then a major misunderstanding occurs and the two fall apart again. Then the main character finds out that the apparent misunderstanding was an obvious misunderstanding. And father and son are reunited and live happily ever after. End credits. (If you think this is a “spoiler” – sorry, you haven't seen that many movies!)

Honestly, this hackneyed plot wouldn't be so bad if the comedy was actually good. It's not. If you're expecting humor similar to the Garfield comics or cartoons, you might want to look elsewhere. The “funniest” joke in the film takes place in a boxcar while Odie works in the background and Garfield and his dad argue. Otherwise, this film is full of jokes that are either not funny or not jokes. In one excruciatingly long sequence, Garfield's dad plans their heist in the woods and Garfield argues about who is represented by which random woodland object.

Overall, while this movie isn't “bad,” it's not good either. It's a mediocre movie that amounts to fiber: it passes easily through the body without really having any lasting effects on it. This is the kind of movie you play for your kids to keep them occupied for an hour or two while you work on something else. In other words, don't watch this movie in the theater. And if your kids really want to see it, wait until it comes out on streaming or rental.

If you want to watch some really good Garfield content, I highly recommend the old cartoon series Garfield and Friends. It's even available to stream for free on Tubi, Pluto TV, and The Roku Channel. You won't believe how well this show holds up 30 years later. It really was a series ahead of its time, and it's much better to watch than this movie.

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