The Garfield Movie

The Garfield Movie exemplifies the utter madness that is Hollywood’s current preoccupation with IP. The character doesn’t have a ton of relevance for today’s kids. Making a movie about him, therefore, requires coming up with a story that will hold their attention. And doing that means ignoring the things that adults, who grew up with the character, love and appreciate. What is the purpose? You end up with a movie that has name-brand value yet isn’t faithful to its own source material.

The first ten minutes are fun. We see Garfield (voiced by Chris Pratt) eating his owner Jon (Nicholas Hoult) out of house and home, cavorting with dog pal Odie, and bemoaning Mondays - all very much in the spirit of Jim Davis’s comic strip. Then the plot kicks in. Garfield and Odie are kidnapped by the feline’s estranged father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson). He’s being blackmailed by another cat, Jinx (Hannah Waddingham), and needs help stealing milk from a dairy farm to pay her off. Garfield and Vic get an assist from the dairy’s mascot, a bull named Otto (Ving Rhames), who has been put out to pasture.

The Garfield comics take place in Jon’s home and deal with the feline’s love of lasagna, hatred of Mondays, and the day-to-day issues associated with being a lazy, overweight cat. The Garfield Movie, on the other hand, is a heist flick with crazy action sequences in which the characters fight on top of a moving train and get stuck inside the mechanics of a cheese factory. Director Mark Dindal and his team would have been better off devising an original character to power this tale. Garfield fans will be annoyed by the overall lack of adherence to the world Davis created, while children probably couldn’t care less who the cat is.

None of it would matter if the film was funnier. There are a couple laughs scattered here and there. More often than not, the script relies on tired old jokes or gags that aren’t particularly clever (e.g. a streaming service called “Catflix” that runs cute cat videos). The dialogue isn’t much better. In one scene, the title character asks to be referred to as “Garfield, Mr. Garfield, or G-Money.” That line might have been witty in 1994. In 2024, it feels desperate. So does the shameless product placement in which Popchips and Walmart are plugged with a distressing lack of subtlety.

The Garfield Movie is nicely animated, to be fair. A sequence involving an army of delivery drones is especially fun to look at, thanks to the detail and style. This is far from the worst animated movie ever made. That said, the whole thing is uninspired, right down to the predictable emotional story beats. The goal of making an IP-driven film was certainly met; they just made it by coasting.


out of four

The Garfield Movie is rated PG for action/peril and mild thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.

Universal

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan