Garfield: The Movie review by Mike Long

Over the past 20 years, we've seen many movies based on TV shows and comic books. But, we don't see many films that have origins in comic strips. This seems odd, as many comic strips have established characters, long-running storylines, and a fan-base. Thus, Garfield: The Movie seems like a no-brainer. But if this film is any indication of what we should expect from a comic-strip based film, then we probably won't be seeing many more in the future.

Garfield: The Movie focuses on Garfield the cat (voiced by Bill Murray), a self-involved feline who enjoys sleeping, eating lasagna, and generally tormenting his owner, Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer). Due to Garfield's constant bouts of over-eating, Jon makes frequent trips to see their local veterinarian, Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) -- but this is merely an excuse to visit her, as Jon has had a crush on her for years. Unable to resist Liz, Jon agrees to adopt a dog named Odie from her. Garfield is appalled by this development and immediately begins to torture the poor dog. Jon loves Odie’s presence, as it gives him more opportunities to see Liz. While attending a dog-show with her, Jon meets Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky), a disgruntled local-TV host who’s been looking for a replacement for his on-screen cat. When he sees Odie’s ability to dance, he’s immediately charmed by the dog. After Garfield locks Odie out of the house, Happy is able to procure the dog for his show. Learning this, Garfield decides that he must do the right thing and rescue Jon’s dog.

For some films, a review can tricky, as it can be difficult to pick out the pros and cons of the movie. The Garfield character has essentially the same personality of his comic-strip counterpart. There have been some liberties taken with the story, such as the origin of Odie and the relationship between Jon and Liz has been altered substantially, as Liz can't stand Jon in the comics, but these changes do serve to move the film along. The movie contains many of the supporting characters from the comic, such as Nermal the cat (voiced by David Eigenberg) and Louis the mouse (voiced by Nick Cannon). Breckin Meyer is very good as the put-upon Jon, and the usually annoying Jennifer Love Hewitt is actually charming as Liz.

Those ups and downs are minor compared to the movie's major flaws. For starters, Garfield: The Movie suffers from the same problem as the Scooby-Doo movie. The Garfield in the movie looks sort of like the Garfield from the comics, but the black stripes are missing. He's simply too orange. And while the movie doesn't fool around with the CGI, placing Garfield in as many shots as possible, all of the special effects aren't perfect. (Check the 6:20 point in the film, where Garfield appears to be floating on the street.) Speaking of special effects, it's truly odd that Garfield is the only CGI character in the film. This works in Scooby-Doo, as he's the only animal in the film. However, Garfield is surrounded by real cats, dogs, and mice, and his artificial nature really stands out. (One still has to wonder why Odie wasn't CGI.) But, the biggest problem with Garfield: The Movie is the story. Bill Murray makes many witty and sardonic quips as Garfield, but much of the truly cynical humor of the comic is thrown out in favor of a rather benign story, much of which is borrowed from the 1982 animated special "Here Comes Garfield". Yes, the film is aimed at children, but that doesn't mean that we should insult them with such a hackneyed story. Garfield: The Movie has some nice chuckles and some cute animals, and there's no denying that some of the undeniable charm of the Garfield character comes through, but in the end, it's a waste of a great opportunity.

Garfield: The Movie strolls onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was screened. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is quite sharp and clear, despite the amount of information on the DVD. The picture shows little grain and has a nice amount of depth. The image is somewhat soft in some scenes and when Garfield in on-screen, the background becomes especially blurry. The picture shows some artifacting elements and edge-enhancement is evident in some scenes, but otherwise the transfer looks good. As for the audio, the DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This track provides clear dialogue with no hissing or distortion. The stereo effects are quite impressive and the film’s dance-numbers (yes, dance numbers) show off the flexibility of the surround channels.

The Garfield: The Movie DVD offers only one extra feature and it’s a tough one to find, as there’s no special features menu. However, if one looks into the language options, you’ll find an audio commentary from director Peter Hewitt and producer John Davis. This track is acceptable, as they talk about the mechanics of making the film and what it’s like to work with a character who isn’t there, but the talk is often very dry.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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