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J.C. Reviews: The Garfield Movie is a Big Fat Nothing Burger

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by James Coulter

If you don’t know who Garfield is…you know who Garfield is! For more than 40 years, Garfield has remained the most famous orange cat in comics. In fact, the only other orange comic strip cat, Heathcliff, is most infamous for being mistaken for him—even though Heathcliff’s comic strip premiered five years before Garfield’s!

Garfield has appeared in comic strips, Saturday morning cartoons, animated television specials, live-action movies, video games, theme parks, and especially on car windshields. Now, 18 years after his last theatrical film, A Tale of Two Kitties, this big cat is making his big return to the big screen. But will the big screen be able to handle this big cat in his next big adventure? Or will audiences end up liking this move as much as Garfield loves Mondays?

The Garfield Movie starts with the titular cat as a scrawny little kitty. After being abandoned by his father, Garfield is adopted by Jon and eventually grows up into the lazy lasagna-eating fat cat. One night, he and his dog companion Odie become unintentionally reunited with his father when his father’s former partner-in-crime ropes them all in on a criminal raid. Now Garfield needs to work together with his estranged father to pull off the biggest milk heist of the century. Will the two rekindle their relationship and succeed in their mission? Or will this milk robbery go sour?

I’ve been a big fan of Garfield ever since I was young. I loved watching Garfield and Friends every Saturday, reading the comic strips on Sunday. I played a Garfield video game on the Sega Game Gear. I even somewhat enjoyed watching the 2004 live-action movie starring Bill Murray—even if he did consider it his worst acting role, and all because he assumed the film was being directed by the Cohen Brothers and not Joel Cohen! (The 2006 sequel, on the other hand, belongs in the litter box.) So, being a lifelong Garfield fan, you’d think I’d enjoy this movie, right?

Well, I loved this movie as much as Garfield loves Mondays. And spiders. And Binky the Clown. Which is to say I didn’t like it at all.

Credit where it’s due, the animation looked decent. The art style certainly captures the cartoony aspect of the Garfield comics, but not so much that it looks like a comic strip come to life. If you’re expecting an innovative art style along the lines of Spider-Verse or The Peanuts Movie—well, this film ain’t it!

Chris Pratt as Garfield is—fine! He’s just fine. I love Chris Pratt. He’s my favorite actor of all time. I loved him as Star Lord in the Guardians of the Galaxy. And I enjoyed him as Mario in the Super Mario Bros. Movie. And to his credit, he does manage to capture the snarky personality of the fat comic-strip feline. I don’t know. He certainly does a better job than Bill Murray, but, in the end, the late Lorenzo Music will always remain the definitive voice for Garfield, to the point where there can never be a proper replacement.

As for the story itself? Well, stop me if you’ve heard this before: a character is separated and later reunited with their long-lost father…yes, we’ve heard this all before! They don’t get along at first. Then they do. But then there’s a big misunderstanding and the two of them fall apart again. Then the main character figures out that the obvious misunderstanding was an obvious misunderstanding. And the father and son become reunited once again and live happily ever after. Roll credits. (If you consider this a “spoiler”—I’m sorry, you haven’t watched that many movies!)

Honestly, this trite plot wouldn’t be so bad if the comedy was actually good. It isn’t. If you’re expecting humor similar to the Garfield comics or cartoons, you might want to look somewhere else. The “funniest” joke from the film takes place inside a train boxcar, with Odie working in the background while Garfield and his father are arguing with each other. Otherwise, this movie is filled with jokes that are either not funny or not jokes. One excruciatingly-long sequence has Garfield’s father planning out their heist in the forest and Garfield arguing over who gets represented by what random forest item.

Overall, while this movie isn’t “bad”, it’s simply not good either. It’s a mediocre film equivalent to dietary fiber: it passes through you easily with no real lasting impact on your system. This is the type of movie you put on for your children to keep them pre-occupied for an hour or two while you work on something else. In other words, don’t bother watching this film in theaters. And if your kids really want to watch it, wait until it comes out on streaming or rental.

If you really want to watch good Garfield content, I highly recommend the old Garfield and Friends animated series. It’s even available to stream for free on Tubi, Pluto TV, and The Roku Channel. You won’t believe how well this show holds up even 30 years later. It truly was a series ahead of its time, and it’s a much better watch than this movie.

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