Reel Reviews | The Garfield Movie

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

The truth about the life of the most famously known orange tabby comes to light in, The Garfield Movie.

Garfield is living his life.  He has his adopted human taking care of his every desire which mostly consists of food.  One day everything changes when for some reason, Garfield and Odie are kidnapped and held for ransom by a cat named Jinx.  Only Jinx does not want Jon to pay, she wants Vic, Garfield’s father to pay.

Written by Paul Kaplan, Mark Torgove, and David Reynolds based upon characters created by Jim Davis, The Garfield Movie features the voice talents of Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddingham, Ving Rhames, Nicholas Hoult, Bowen Yang, Cecily Strong, Snoop Dogg and Brett Goldstein.  The Garfield Movie is directed by Mark Dindal (Chicken Little, The Emperor’s New Groove).

Here’s the good news.  The Garfield Movie is a perfectly appropriate story for little children.  The animation is clean with bright coloring.  The plot is easy to follow.  Children will like this film.  The bad news?  This is not Garfield.

Garfield, historically, is a fat, lazy, and cantankerous cat.  His whole life is centered around laziness and luxury.  Anytime Garfield wants something, he gets Jon or Odie to do it or get it.  He doesn’t go off on adventures.  He doesn’t put anyone else before himself.  The only thing that they got right about Garfield (and the only reason that they can call it The Garfield Movie) is the fact that he loves lasagna.

For most of his life, the voice of Garfield was done by the great Lorenzo Music.  Since his passing, everyone who did the voice of Garfield, including Bill Murray, imitated Music’s voice of the character.  Everyone until now.  Chris Pratt’s voice of Garfield is his own.  He sounds nothing like Garfield.  He sounds like himself.

For generations that grew up with Garfield, this movie feels like an alien entity.  A body-snatcher has taken over the orange cat that we have known and loved and replaced him with a shell of itself.  Essentially, any cartoon character could have been placed in the plot of this movie and it would have been the same.  Or, this movie would have been better served if the world was introduced to a new character and not had to stand up to comparisons to other iterations of a classic character.  But to pass this film off as a “Garfield” movie feels just a little disingenuous.

Even worse, there is a scene in the film that borders on distasteful due to recent events.  In one scene that thematically is intentionally borrowed from the Mission Impossible franchise, Garfield states that he does his stunts (ironically, stunts are something the real Garfield would never do) in a deliberate poke at Tom Cruise.  However, only days before the film is to be released, Chris Pratt’s real-life, long-time stunt double, Tony McFarr passed away.  Surely, the film was far past post-production when McFarr died so the timing of the joke seems to be more than poor to those in the know. 

The best thing in the movie for adults and true lovers of Garfield sadly has nothing to do with Garfield.  Earlier in the year, The Fall Guy, featuring the wonderful Hannah Waddingham, had a scene that occurred in a karaoke bar and did not allow Waddingham the opportunity to share her golden vocals with the audience.  Thankfully, The Garfield Movie recognizes the abilities of one of its stars and allows the audience to be graced with an exquisitely performed yet typical evil-bad-guy song from Hannah.

Rated PG for action/peril and mild thematic elements, it goes without saying that The Garfield Movie is a re-imagining of a classic character for an audience that has no idea who Garfield truly is.  It’s perfectly fine for those who don’t know any better but for those who do, it’s a no-go.

Grade:  D