out of Five
Running time: 85
Better than it has any right to be, thanks to impressive CGI work, some good gags and a note-perfect purrformance by Bill Murray.
At first glance, Garfield: The Movie seems like a terrible idea. After all, how many Garfield fans do you know? Come to that, when was the last time you even saw anything with Garfield’s face on it? Quite apart from seeming like a leftover idea from the 1980s, the comic strips weren’t even all that funny anyway, relying exclusively on Garfield being lazy, greedy and occasionally mean.
So it comes as something of a surprise that the movie isn’t actually all that bad – in fact, it was something of a surprise hit in the States, racking up close to $70 million within a few weeks.
Plot Similar To Original Strips
Plot-wise, the film doesn’t stray too far from the strips by Jim Davis.
Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) lives with his owner, John Arbuckle
(Breckin Meyer). He really is a groovy cat, but he’s no gentleman, no scholar and certainly no acrobat – he likes nothing better than to eat, sleep and generally laze around in front of the TV.
However, when sexy vet Dr Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) gives John a dog (Odie), Garfield resents having to share his life of luxury and schemes to get rid of the dog.
Meanwhile, there’s a parallel plot about Happy Chapman (Stephen
Tobowlowsky), a talentless TV show host in need of an animal gimmick. So when Odie falls into his clutches and ends up with an electric shock collar, Garfield reluctantly sets out to rescue his friend.
The human performances are fine – Breckin Meyer makes a suitably bland John, Jennifer Love Hewitt doesn’t have much to do except look gorgeous and Stephen Tobolowsky can always be relied upon for Comedy Evil. Predictably, however, it’s Bill Murray who steals the show – he’s purrfectly cast as Garfield, his voice striking just the right note between apathy and affection. Yes, Garfield is an arrogant, smug character at times, but Murray finds the chinks in the armour so he never loses our sympathy.
CGI Interaction Well Thought Out
The film also works because they got the effects right for Garfield himself. In the film, although Garfield talks, only other animals can understand him. Similarly, all the other animals are played by real animals, whereas Garfield has his familiar cartoon face on a realistic looking body, albeit one that has seen more than its fair share of pies.
Admittedly, this sounds like it shouldn’t work at all (imagine the same effect for Scooby Doo), but it works perfectly and provides yet more proof, if proof were needed, that CGI animators have really got fur down pat these days.
The other important ingredient is to have jokes that actually work. Luckily there are enough gags here to please both children (the sight of Garfield and Odie dancing) and adults (Garfield being squashed against a windscreen in the manner of those ubiquitous sucker-toys from over a decade ago). Naturally, Garfield himself has several good one-liners but there’s good comic support from his animal friends too.
In short, Garfield is far from the cat-astrophe that it could have been, thanks to Bill Murray and a gag-laden script. Worth seeing.