June 25, 2024 6:21 am

The Garfield Movie
The Garfield Movie

The Garfield Movie

I cannot think of a single reason for another Garfield movie, and apparently, the people who made this couldn’t, either. It reminds me of the legendary comment about “Nancy,” which, like “Garfield,” was originally a comic strip known for the spareness of its design and the helium-weight lightness of its humor. When asked to explain “Nancy,” someone once said, “It takes less energy to read it than to skip it.” Those who have children pestering them to see “Garfield” will feel the same way about this film. It’s not awful. It may be too much to say that kids will enjoy it, but it is probably fair to say they will feel that they have been entertained. But those accompanying the children may feel dispirited by the emptiness that emanates from a film that is just an IP cash grab. And parents may have some concerns, discussed below.

Jim Davis’ wildly popular “Garfield” comic strip started almost half a century ago, and for most of that time, it has centered on very few themes and characters. Garfield is a cat who rules the home  No one could think of calling Jon, the human he lives with, as his owner. Also in the house is a dog named Odie, who exists in the world of the strip to be the subject of pranks and derision. Even though Garfield does not work, he hates Mondays. He loves food, especially lasagna.  

What works in a four-panel comic strip will not work in a feature film. So, this animated version of Garfield, voiced by Chris Pratt, loves lasagna but is not as selfish and obnoxious as the Garfield who stars in the strip, the books, mugs, calendars, and t-shirts. In a brief prologue, we see how Garfield was left by his father in an alley when he was a kitten. Garfield spotted Jon at a table in an Italian restaurant, devoured Jon’s entire pizza, and Jon was so taken with the kitten that they became roommates. (In this scene, Garfield passes by a sign that says “Lorenzo,” a shout-out to Lorenzo Music, the first to provide a voice for Garfield, in television specials, an animated series, video games, and commercials.)

In the present day, Garfield has a great life, ordering drone food delivery by an app on Jon’s phone and watching videos on Catflix. Instead of being annoyed by and competitive with Odie, in this version, they are friends, and Garfield calls Odie his intern. Everything is fine until Garfield’s long-lost father, Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), shows up, causing Garfield to acknowledge the pain of his feelings of abandonment. He has no interest in developing a relationship with Vic, but Garfield, Odie, and Vic are all kidnapped together by revenge-seeking Jinx (“Ted Lasso’s” Hannah Waddingham). Then it turns into a heist film, as the only way they can escape is to help a huge bull named Otto (Ving Rhames) rescue his love, a cow named Ethel. 

The storyline is complicated but not particularly engaging. There are elements that are too arcane or unsettling for children and not of any special comedic value for adults. Garfield’s resentment over being abandoned by his father is a touchy theme, and children may not find its resolution entirely satisfying. The painful separation of Otto and his beloved is the consequence of the farm’s being purchased by an agribusiness, a plot line neither original nor resonant for a young audience. A bird gets electrocuted and killed, and major characters get shocked with cattle prods and an electrified fence. Jokes about actor Daniel Day-Lewis and an extended “joke” about roadkill are poorly chosen. The villains are the only two significant female characters who are angry, shrill, and domineering. At one point, a character addresses the audience with what is supposed to be a joke: “If you have young children, this would be a good time to leave the room.” My advice is just to find a better movie. 

I cannot think of a single reason for another Garfield movie, and apparently, the people who made this couldn’t, either. It reminds me of the legendary comment about “Nancy,” which, like “Garfield,” was originally a comic strip known for the spareness of its design and the helium-weight lightness of its humor. When asked to explain “Nancy,” someone once said, “It takes less energy to read it than to skip it.” Those who have children pestering them to see “Garfield” will feel the same way about this film. It’s not awful. It may be too much to say that kids will enjoy it, but it is probably fair to say they will feel that they have been entertained. But those accompanying the children may feel dispirited by the emptiness that emanates from a film that is just an IP cash grab. And parents may have some concerns, discussed below. Jim Davis’ wildly popular “Garfield” comic strip started almost half a century ago, and for most of that time, it has centered on very few themes and characters. Garfield is a cat who rules the home  No one could think of calling Jon, the human he lives with, as his owner. Also in the house is a dog named Odie, who exists in the world of the strip to be the subject of pranks and derision. Even though Garfield does not work, he hates Mondays. He loves food, especially lasagna.   What works in a four-panel comic strip will not work in a feature film. So, this animated version of Garfield, voiced by Chris Pratt, loves lasagna but is not as selfish and obnoxious as the Garfield who stars in the strip, the books, mugs, calendars, and t-shirts. In a brief prologue, we see how Garfield was left by his father in an alley when he was a kitten. Garfield spotted Jon at a table in an Italian restaurant, devoured Jon’s entire pizza, and Jon was so taken with the kitten that they became roommates. (In this scene, Garfield passes by a sign that says “Lorenzo,” a shout-out to Lorenzo Music, the first to provide a voice for Garfield, in television specials, an animated series, video games, and commercials.) In the present day, Garfield has a great life, ordering drone food delivery by an app on Jon’s phone and watching videos on Catflix. Instead of being annoyed by and competitive with Odie, in this version, they are friends, and Garfield calls Odie his intern. Everything is fine until Garfield’s long-lost father, Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), shows up, causing Garfield to acknowledge the pain of his feelings of abandonment. He has no interest in developing a relationship with Vic, but Garfield, Odie, and Vic are all kidnapped together by revenge-seeking Jinx (“Ted Lasso’s” Hannah Waddingham). Then it turns into a heist film, as the only way they can escape is to help a huge bull named Otto (Ving Rhames) rescue his love, a cow named Ethel.  The storyline is complicated but not particularly engaging. There are elements that are too arcane or unsettling for children and not of any special comedic value for adults. Garfield’s resentment over being abandoned by his father is a touchy theme, and children may not find its resolution entirely satisfying. The painful separation of Otto and his beloved is the consequence of the farm’s being purchased by an agribusiness, a plot line neither original nor resonant for a young audience. A bird gets electrocuted and killed, and major characters get shocked with cattle prods and an electrified fence. Jokes about actor Daniel Day-Lewis and an extended “joke” about roadkill are poorly chosen. The villains are the only two significant female characters who are angry, shrill, and domineering. At one point, a character addresses the audience with what is supposed to be a joke: “If you have young children, this would be a good time to leave the room.” My advice is just to find a better movie.  Read More