One would think that with 25 years of Garfield, the rotund feline smart-aleck of the Jim Davis cartoon, gracing the funny papers, someone would’ve gotten this movie right. The script is too uninspiring; it would’ve been better if it lined a litter box. What’s worse is that Garfield borrows two of the most overused catchphrases of the 90’s, in hopes of a laugh or two. The one good thing is that Bill Murray is superbly cast as the voice of Garfield, but he has way too much to say, and most of it isn’t really all that funny.
The movie features the plump Garfield as master of his domain, pampered by Jon. His only problems in life are waking up, what to eat, and how to torture the neighbor’s stupid dog (voiced by Brad Garrett). Garfield never wanders too far from home, quite content in his laziness. However, all that changes when Jon, head over heels in love with the veterinarian, brings home a new addition, a tongue and tail-wagging mutt named Odie. Garfield has a hard time adjusting, gets himself in trouble, and lands himself a timeout on the porch. In good ol’ Garfield style, he tricks Odie and gets the dopey dog outside instead. Odie gets lost but winds up caught in the clutches of a deranged pet-show host (Stephen Tobolowsky). As a result, Garfield goes against character and loses his devil-may-care attitude and grows a conscience, rescuing Odie and saving the day.
Garfield is presented onscreen as a CGI blob of orange boredom and sadly he is the only character who can be considered as animated. Yes, it’s a doggone shame that Odie, so recognizable as the dopey, tongue-wagging sidekick, is mistakenly portrayed by a real dog. The better choice would have been a computer-animated pup made to look like those new dog toys with the oversized heads littering toy store shelves. Adding to this beast of burden, the filmmakers took a tired queue from Babe as all the other animals are real life with moving mouths. But who would have imagined they’d be better portrayed than Garfield’s human counterparts, Jon (Breckin Meyer) and his veterinarian (Jennifer Love Hewitt)? Those two are like stiff, uninspiring cutouts placed in the movie.
Director Peter Hewitt (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey) and writers Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow of Toy Story fame don’t do much to keep the wit and sarcasm of Davis’ funny three windowed daily. Honestly, Garfield: The Movie would’ve been better as a new half hour cartoon on television, like the Emmy award winning show done in the late 1980’s. There just isn’t anything truly funny or whimsical about the film except for the obligatory lasagna jokes and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homage to a Garfield car product. Youngsters may find some other bits humorous but they’d probably have more fun chasing a ball of yarn. I found myself wanting an 82-minute catnap.
Quite simply the movie stinks like a three-day-old litter box and needs to be dumped in the trash.