Tuesday, June 18, 2024

“THE GARFIELD MOVIE”

THE STORYGarfield has an unexpected reunion with his long-lost father, a scruffy street cat who draws him into a high-stakes heist.

THE CASTChris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddingham, Ving Rhames, Nicholas Hoult, Cecily Strong, Harvey Guillén, Brett Goldstein, Bowen Yang & Snoop Dogg

THE TEAMMark Dindal Paul (Director), A. Kaplan, Mark Torgove & David Reynolds (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME101 Minutes


Everybody knows Garfield, the orange tabby cat who hates Mondays, loves lasagna and has led Jim Davis’s comic strip of the same name for nearly half a century. You may even remember that he’s received the cinematic treatment before in two live-action, visual effects extravaganzas that saw a CGI cat, purr-fectly voiced by Bill Murray, go on comic misadventures in the real world. If you’re going to make a film out of a comic strip, it’s best to do so in a way that captures the spirit of the comic as closely as possible, so it was always curious that the prior films starring Garfield didn’t go the fully animated route.

Enter “The Garfield Movie,” animated by DNEG Animation (hot off the success of “Nimona,” the Oscar-nominated Netflix film that DNEG took over after Blue Sky Studios was shut down in 2021) and directed by Mark Dindal. Dindal is one of the mad geniuses behind Disney’s anarchic comedy, “The Emperor’s New Groove,” as well as the man behind 2005’s “Chicken Little,” which was such a large critical, commercial, and artistic flop that Dindal hasn’t directed anything in the two decades since. “The Garfield Movie” is exactly the kind of solid comeback project that proves Dindal can work within the confines of an IP-driven studio film to create something that will please children of all ages without turning off their parents. While clearly made first and foremost for young children, “The Garfield Movie” never indulges in instantly-dated pop culture references or double entendres that fly far over children’s heads. Instead, it makes a meal out of the unbridled energy and bold images of a comic strip, making for an enjoyable, unexpectedly sweet time at the movies for the whole family.

The film’s plot, while appropriately feature-length, isn’t precisely aligned with the spirit of Davis’s comic strip. Garfield (Chris Pratt, Hollywood’s current favorite animated leading man) has enjoyed life with John Arbuckle (Nicholas Hoult) ever since the night Garfield’s father abandoned him to find food and the young kitten followed his nose to the Italian restaurant where John was eating alone. John, Garfield, and dog Odie (Harvey Guillén) have built a family unit together that gets separated one day when Garfield and Odie are kidnapped by Jinx (Hannah Waddingham), a Persian cat who uses them as bait to get revenge on Garfield’s long-lost father, Vic (Samuel L. Jackson). Now, the house pets must help street cat Vic steal a delivery truck’s worth of milk from Lactose Farms, or else.

This heist caper adventure plot may be far more involved than the hijinks Garfield would get up to on the Saturday morning cartoon series, “Garfield and Friends,” but the screenplay (originally by Paul A. Kaplan and Mark Torgrove, with Dindal’s “New Groove” scribe David Reynolds doing a rewrite) manages a surprisingly mature tone when dealing with the relationship between Garfield and Vic. While still keeping things kid-friendly, their relationship is presented with a level of emotional depth and honesty rarely found in family films. The rest of the film has such unrelenting comic energy that it completely blindsides you when it switches gears to become more emotional, but it’s so heartfelt that it works.

In fact, the filmmaking team’s love for the material is enough to paper over the strange, overly-convoluted “Chicken Run” rehash that is the main plot. The animators have clearly had a blast imagining what the comic strip characters would look like in motion, creating a series of montages that feel like a bunch of short “Garfield” comic strips stitched together. Even the main plot has a fun 2D-style animated sequence detailing the “Mission: Impossible” style heist the animals must pull off. In its best moments, “The Garfield Movie” really does feel like an animated comic strip. Most of these moments are cute, and some are even clever, but all of them are fun, especially with John Debney’s bouncy score in the background. That sense of fun permeates every frame of the film, elevating even the many sequences that start as a cute bit but continue long after they stop being funny. At 101 minutes, “The Garfield Movie” could have done with being shorter, but even though some moments overstay their welcome, the film as a whole is so delightful that these moments are easily forgotten.

None of this is to say that “The Garfield Movie” is a new classic, or a must-see, or anything like that. Despite the surprisingly successful father-son storyline and themes of familial bonds, the film is still an obvious piece of corporate product placement, and the animation itself can leave something to be desired. The texture work on the animals’ fur is shockingly detailed, especially in close-ups, but when placed next to their overly cartoonish eyes and the sometimes flat backgrounds, it has the unintended effect of making everything else in the frame look somewhat roughshod and cheap by comparison. That overly cartoonish look, though, is a large part of what helps the film feel like a genuine extension of the comic strip and, thus, a large part of why the film works as well as it does.

Despite the many nits one could pick, “The Garfield Movie” succeeds as a film that can be genuinely enjoyed by the whole family, especially at the end of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad Monday.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A cartoonishly good time for kids that never insults their parents’ intelligence and even manages some highly emotional turns. Has fun translating the comic strip’s humor to the big screen.

THE BAD - The caper storyline is out of character for Garfield, and many sequences last long enough to wear out their good welcome.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Previous article
Next article
Dan Bayer
Dan Bayer
Performer since birth, tap dancer since the age of 10. Life-long book, film and theatre lover.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

101,150FollowersFollow
101,150FollowersFollow
9,315FansLike
9,315FansLike
4,686FollowersFollow
4,686FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>A cartoonishly good time for kids that never insults their parents’ intelligence and even manages some highly emotional turns. Has fun translating the comic strip’s humor to the big screen.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The caper storyline is out of character for Garfield, and many sequences last long enough to wear out their good welcome.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"THE GARFIELD MOVIE"