by Kevin Carr
Click here to listen to Kevin's "Garfield" audio review, as heard on Clear Channel radio!
|| MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Breckin Meyer as JON ARBUCKLE
Jennifer Love Hewitt as DR. LIZ WILSON
Stanley Tobolowsky as HAPPY CHAPMAN
Bill Murray as THE VOICE OF GARFIELD
Evan Arnold as WENDELL
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Peter Hewitt
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When I get ready to write a DVD review of a film I saw in the theaters, I usually glance back at my original review for the theatrical release. I recall not liking “Garfield: The Movie,” but I didn’t realize I had such an extreme reaction this summer. Here’s a quote from my review back then: “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.”
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Wow. I really hated this film when it came out.
However, after letting myself cool off a bit, I went back to watch it again on DVD. Now, I still don’t think this is a great piece of cinematic achievement. But it wasn’t so bad the second time around, and I do admit that calling the CGI Garfield the “cinematic destruction of a beloved character” was a bit much.
However, I still take issue with the fact that the characters are nothing like they are in the original comic strip. I thought that Bill Murray managed to capture most of Garfield’s personality, but the filmmakers copped out on the supporting cast. Breckin Meyer was too average for Jon, who’s a complete doofus in the comic strip. And Jennifer Love Hewitt’s ultra-sweet Liz was 180 degrees out of phase with her original character.
Now, director Pete Hewitt says in the director commentary that they specifically didn’t want Jon to be a doofus. That was a mistake, in my opinion, because the characters lost their bite. But Odie was the biggest sin of all. Sure, the dog in the movie is cute, but he’s a real dog. He isn’t the low-brow slobber factory I grew up with on the funny pages. There’s also the other cat characters, like Nermal and Arlene, that resemble their source material in name only.
After seeing the movie this summer, I dug up some old Garfield books I had from my childhood. I was surprised to find that the plot of this movie mirrored the original TV special “Here Comes Garfield,” which also has Garfield being responsible for Odie being kidnapped as well as a daring escape from the pound.
What these books also reminded me is that I liked Garfield circa 1980 much more than I did Garfield circa 1985. Sometime in the early 1980s, Jim Davis took a wonderfully dysfunctional family and turned it into pabulum wholesomeness. The old Garfield was sassy, mean, cynical - as he should be. He had sayings like, “Have you kicked your dog today?” But when Gary Larson of the notorious strip “The Far Side” holds the Garfield comic strip up as the pinnacle of wholesomeness, you know its lost its edge.
Still, when it comes to renting DVDs, I’ll often be swayed by the extra features. Even movies I don’t like are up for grabs if they have a decent director’s commentary or other neat stuff. Case in point, I hated Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy,” but didn’t hesitate to watch every extra feature on the DVD.
The “Garfield” DVD does offer a really good commentary, which isn’t even called out on the cover box. That’s a shame, too, because that can be a make-or-break rental for me. It also conveniently has both full-frame and widescreen versions of the film, which should make everyone happy.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1) and full frame (1.33:1). French and Spanish language tracks. Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.