GARFIELD: THE MOVIE
* (out of 5)
June 11, 2004
Breckin Meyer as JON ARBUCKLE
Jennifer Love Hewitt as DR. LIZ WILSON
Stephen Tobolowsky as HAPPY CHAPMAN
Bill Murray as THE VOICE OF GARFIELD
Evan Arnold as WENDELL
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Peter Hewitt
BY KEVIN CARR
One of the tag lines for “Garfield: The Movie” is, “This ain’t the Cat in the Hat.” That’s not true. This is exactly “The Cat in the Hat.” I felt the same misery, despair, offense and nausea while watching this film as I did “The Cat in the Hat.” It is the same cinematic destruction of a beloved character from my childhood.
At least Dr. Seuss is dead. Jim Davis, Garfield’s creator, proudly puts his name on this stinker. Shame on you, Jim Davis.
When the funniest part of the film is the Garfield-on-the-window joke from the trailer, it’s a bad sign. When they make a computer generated fat cat that is only slightly less irritating than Jar Jar Binks, it’s a bad sign. When the supporting cast has no resemblance whatsoever to the original comic strip characters, it’s a bad sign.
Let’s start with Jon Arbuckle. Even a casual Garfield reader knows that what makes Jon work is that he’s a pathetic loser. That’s why he loves Garfield even with all the abuse. Jon is the kind of guy who asks out the skanky waitress at the diner – and gets rejected. He’s the kind of guy who tries a smooth pick-up line for the “sexy” voice on the other end of the phone only to find out it was his mother. Jon’s the kind of guy who thinks he’s Don Juan when he wears a plaid shirt with striped pants.
At least in the comic strip, he is. In the film, Jon is just a quiet, polite, nice (read as: boring) guy played by Breckin Meyer. This poor guy should have run screaming when he heard Jim Carrey turned down the part, but I guess he needed to pay the rent now that “Married to the Kellys” has been cancelled.
And then there’s Liz, played by a bouncy Jennifer Love Hewitt (honestly, the only thing “watchable” in this film). Liz should be sarcastic, bitter, cynical and taking joy in any pain and humiliation she can thrust upon Jon (in other words, Garfield’s soul mate). But in the movie, she’s the sweet, beautiful vet who actually has a crush on Jon.
Yes, you heard right. She has a crush on Jon.
Then there’s Nermal, who is supposed to be the world’s cutest kitten who comes around periodically to annoy Garfield. In this movie, he’s a fully grown Siamese cat that acts as Garfield’s low-rent side kick and talks with a voice more annoying than John Leguizamo’s sloth in “Ice Age.”
I’m not going to complain too much about Odie, because the dog is cute and I don’t hold it against him. Of course, why they didn’t CGI a dog that actually looks like Odie, I’ll never know.
And don’t get me started with the plot, which is a loosely structured bridge between unfunny jokes. The weak storyline sees Jon adopt Odie from Liz the vet, much to Garfield’s chagrin. Garfield doesn’t adjust to Odie too well and kicks him out of the house, later to find out he’s been kidnapped by the renegade evil talk show host searching for a new animal sidekick. Yup, it’s that bad.
The running time is less than 90 minutes, and it felt like three hours. It made my butt hurt to sit through it. The dialogue from the humans sounds like it was written by a three year old. And the not-so-witty remarks by Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield sound like they were written after principal photography in a failing attempt to punch up the humor in the film.
Garfield just ain’t what he used to be. Ever since Garfield started walking on hind legs that look like human feet (which, unfortunately happened about 20 years ago), he lost his flavor. Sometime in the 1980s, Davis took a wonderfully dysfunctional family and turned it into pabulum wholesomeness.
Now give me the Garfield, circa 1982. This cat was sassy, mean, cynical – as he should be. He had sayings like, “Have you kicked your dog today?” This was the Garfield that Lorenzo Music brought to life so well in a handful of decent TV specials in the 1980s. But there’s no hint of him in this film.
Davis lost touch with his own creation when he had other people do all or part of the writing and drawing of the strip (of course, he’ll still sign his name to it and collect the royalty checks). Now, he’s like the George Lucas of comic strips… but at least George can still wow us with some cool special effects. The only special effects we get here are too many shots of Garfield’s – and other animals – butts.
Unfortunately, director Peter Hewitt, writers Alec Sokolow and Joel Coen (shame on you, Joel; you must have had a mortgage payment due, too), all led by the now-creatively vacuous Jim Davis, have used the memory of the real Garfield, Odie, Jon and Liz as kitty litter.