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The Garfield Movie

The Garfield Movie

Rated PG - for action/peril and mild thematic elements.
Director: Mark Dindal
Starring: voices of Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddingham, Nicholas Hoult, Ving Rhames, Cecily Strong, Snoop Dogg
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: May 23, 2024


Plot Summary

After Garfield's unexpected reunion with his long-lost father, ragged alley cat Vic, he and his canine friend Odie are forced from their perfectly pampered lives to join Vic on a risky heist. (from IMDB)

Film Review

In 2000, Disney broke tradition and delivered one of my all-time favorite animated movies, The Emperor's New Groove. Directed by Mark Dindal and starring a voice cast that was led by David Spade and John Goodman, it was unlike any other Disney movie up until that point, offering a silly and random-style humor that was surprising and hysterical. 24 years later, it's still a heck of a lot of fun to watch, so I was given hope when I heard that my favorite childhood cartoon character was getting his first animated feature film and it would be directed by Dindal. In 2024, Sony Animation brings us The Garfield Movie, the lovable orange cat's first feature since 2006's A Tale of Two Kitties, a live action sequel released over 18 years ago. While 2004's Garfield: The Movie could have worked, given that Bill Murray was voicing the titular tabby, it ultimately didn't, and it's actually surprising that it even earned the aforementioned sequel at all.

The Garfield Movie
So, three time's a charm, right? Actually, yes, it seems to be. While I left the theater unsure where my feelings plant their feet for this movie, it mostly has to do more with my closeness to the character than anything else. I was raised on the comic strip books (like, ALL of them), and the popular TV specials (The Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween ones are seasonal favorites in my household), and the long-running animated series, Garfield and Friends. To me, Garfield was only ever voiced by Lorenzo Music, so when he passed away, so did the "true" animated identity of Garfield. Music's dry, sarcastic delivery complemented and defined Garfield. When Bill Murray voiced the character for the '04 and '06 movies, it seemed darn near poetic, since Music had voiced the animated version of Murray's Ghostbusters character Peter Venkman in the 80's series, The Real Ghostbusters. (Garfield voices Venkman, then Venkman voices Garfield. Beautiful. Oh, and they're two of my all-time favorite characters, too.) Other voice actors have since voiced Garfield in more modern iterations, but to this reviewer - and longtime fan - Garfield and Lorenzo Music are forever one and the same. But in 2024, popular actor (and fellow Christian) Chris Pratt steps into the catbox to voice a new generation of Garfield. And, y'know what? It kinda works.

The Garfield Movie sidesteps a lot of the mistakes the preceding live action movies made, and serves as almost a feature-length Garfield and Friends episode... if it were to be directed by the guy who made The Emperor's New Groove. A lot of the fast, expressive, silly humor is here, too, and it helps bring the comedic tone of the characters up to date. But there's a lot of heart, too. The central plot of the film involves Garfield reconnecting with his father, Vic, whom he believed had abandoned him as a wide-eyed and adorable kitten. However, that's also when Garfield found his lonely, big-hearted owner-to-be, Jon Arbuckle, who ended up adopting him almost on the spot.†Oddly enough, while Jon is a huge part of the comic strip - and cartoon series - he has very little of a presence here. The story takes Garfield and Odie away from their home on sort of a road adventure, with a great deal of the plot - strangely - having to do with a heist at a dairy farm called Lactose Farms. In a strange bit of story advancement, Garfield and Odie are kidnapped by a mysterious figure and imprisoned in an abandoned shopping mall (a sight which in and of itself is a depressing one, and a token of how much things have changed since Garfield's debut 46 years ago). When it's revealed that a vengeful fluffy white cat named Jinx is the reason for their cat-napping (pun intended), they're forced to help Vic repay his debts to her by stealing thousands of gallons of milk. It's a bizarre plot, for sure, but that's also an example of how silly this movie can be.

The Garfield Movie
This pushes the trio into the company of a heartbroken bull named Otto, voiced by Ving Rhames, who is a former mascot for Lactose Farms. Otto was separated from his true love - his co-mascot Ethel, a female cow - and was left to only be able to ever see her from afar. The brokenhearted beast then helps the trio break into the farm to steal the milk in exchange for their help in freeing Ethel. It's a plot I wasn't expecting, and I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a disappointing one (and not very Garfield-ish), but plenty of humor ensues and slapstick hijinks that keep the movie entertaining through to the end.

The animation in the movie is fantastic. The characters are super expressive, and it brings a much more modern feel to them than ever. Garfield and his friends get a bit of a computer-animated face lift, but it doesn't stray too far from their familiar designs. This movie feels like a conscious attempt to reinvent Garfield for a new generation, but that also brings with it a lot of change, too. You can tell that, at times, the film tries to honor Garfield's roots and expansive history (I loved spotting a bunch of Easter eggs scattered through the film), but with tweaks along the way. Odie has always been portrayed to be this stupid but lovable "dumb dog" with a big heart, of whom Garfield loves but also loves to torture. (He just can't help himself.) Here, not only is Odie elevated to something of a mute genius (and, apparently, a math whiz), but Garfield is kind of demoted to being a bit more hapless and bumbling, and blinded by his arrogance and self-absorption. Garfield always had a dry wit about him - to the point of maybe even being the smartest one in the room - so it's a little odd to see him reduced to the butt of many jokes in his own movie. Admittedly, it still kind of works for his character - and he's still lovable - but there's a point where changes like these render a character no longer the same character they're largely known to be, and I'd have to say Garfield and Odie both ride that line throughout the movie. This doesn't, by any means, make Odie a lesser character this time around. If anything, he's still one of the brightest spots of the movie, but it's definitely bizarre to see Odie outsmart Garfield more than once (even though he may still be a little too dumb to not cater to Garfield's every need. He's loyal, to a fault, after all.)

The Garfield Movie
In the trailers, we're shown a lot of little bits and scenes that show Garfield doing very familiar "Garfield-y" things - like Jon trying to give him a bath, Garfield breaking a scale at the vet, reacting to a spider in the house, or sitting and watching TV - but the disappointing thing is, all of those little bits are shown as a montage pretty much at the beginning of the movie when Garfield breaks the fourth wall to tell the audience about his life with Jon. With the core of the movie being about the Lactose Farms heist, it makes the movie venture quite far out of where we'd expect the character to be. Sure, we do revisit those "familiar," character-specific moments a couple times during the movie, and especially at the end, but the movie takes a page out of the "fish out of water" playbook to take Garfield out of his comfort zone and into the wild. It's fine, I suppose, but again, coupled with a new character serving as the father we have never, ever known Garfield to have, it all just makes the movie feel less like a "Garfield" movie. Also, while I'm nitpicking, Nicholas Hoult is a strange choice for voicing Jon. For more than a decade, Thom Huge was the voice of Jon Arbuckle, who had the perfect balance between masculine and painfully nerdy. I know they can't just cast a soundalike voice for Jon, but Hoult gives him a higher voice than fans might expect, and I don't think it fits quite right, making him feel miscast here.

The Garfield Movie just barely falls prey to today's social changes. It looks as though a family of two men with kids are briefly shown taking a selfie together in a restaurant during a flashback. Later, an animal character complains about hiding who they really are for another character and reveals their real vocal accent, saying they are "loud and proud" of who they are. It's played for laughs, but it definitely could be taken another way. Later, that same animal, who is a male, is seen dancing with another male animal who lifts him above his head (in a move that usually couples would do). Again, it's minor stuff, I get it - and things that probably wouldn't make anyone think twice if it were in a movie 20 years ago, but in 2024, it feels deliberate and with a specific intention. In regards to other content, there isn't any profanity, although one British-sounding character uses the British profanity "bloody" once. The only other sensual content in the movie is relatively minor. We see Ethel and Otto share a lovey-dovey moment, with a romantic R&B song playing, just before she pounces him off screen (and Odie pulls the scene's "screen" down to give them privacy). Again, it's all pretty minor still. Other than that, there's a ton of slapstick violence - unrelenting even - and some of the usual name-calling in movies like these.

The Garfield Movie
It has to be difficult to try to make a feature film for a character who usually resides in a three-panel newspaper comic strip. Even the Garfield & Friends episodes usually consisted of three stories condensed into each 22-minute episode. So while The Garfield Movie makes the best of the longer format to keep things moving in a relatively entertaining and fast-paced manner (some scenes do kind of drag on too long), it probably isn't exactly the story fans of the character will be expecting. (On the flip side, my 13-year-old son absolutely loved it.) To be fair, though, Garfield creator Jim Davis grew up on a farm, so it's probably the main reason for a lot of the movie taking place on one (But not having characters from his U.S. Acres entourage cameo here seems like a big lost opportunity.)

With all that said, Chris Pratt does help bring the character to life for 2024 audiences, making The Garfield Movie a decent effort in the end. Personally, for me, I'm curious how the movie will hold up to repeat viewings. After just one, however - while it was relatively fun to watch, and a vast improvement over the live action movies, I think it's still a little disappointing, leaving plenty of room for improvement going forward.

Wondering if there's anything to stay through the credits for? Live action cat and dog videos play over the first part of the credits, then we see storyboard-style sketches of the characters and scenes sprinkled through the remaining credits. When it's all over, a three-panel comic strip of Garfield appears, one panel at a time, as kind of a joke to anyone who decided to keep watching till the end.

5/28/24 SECOND VIEWING UPDATE -- I took the family to see the movie again in 3D. I definitely liked it more the second time. I'm hesitant to bump up the rating, but some of the things that irked me the first time around didn't really bother me so much the second time. Also, we really enjoyed the 3D for the movie. It's not at all a necessity to see it in 3D, but it was a fun time. Shots like Garfield ricocheting off trees and zipping through the air towards the camera really popped, or when he and Odie are hung upsidedown in the abandoned mall, but there weren't a lot of moments like that. The depth did make the characters feel a little more lifelike though. Overall, I found it more enjoyable for my second viewing and look forward to seeing it again. (Oh, and I still had a little trouble not constantly thinking it's Chris Pratt's voice coming out of Garfield's mouth, and that was a little distracting. Again, he did a good job, but it's an adjustment for sure. And this time, I kinda hated Hoult's voicing of Jon even more. Ha!)

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/24-25/24)



Parental Guide: Content Summary

. Sex/Nudity: It kind of looks as though a family of two men with kids are briefly shown taking a selfie or playing a game on their phone together in a restaurant during a flashback; While Garfield is watching TV, we see two realistic looking paper cutouts of human characters in a romantic moment who then briefly kiss; An animal character complains about hiding who they really are for another character and reveals their real vocal accent, saying they are "loud and proud" of who they are; We see Ethel and Otto share a lovey-dovey moment, with a romantic R&B song playing, just before she pounces him off screen, and Odie pulls the scene's "screen" down to give them privacy.
. Vulgarity/Language: 1 use of the British profanity "bloody"
. Alcohol/Drugs: Jinx is frequently seen sipping milk from a martini glass.
. Blood/Gore: None.
. Violence: Lots of slapstick, comedic violence. Garfield is frequently getting hit, punched, squashed, and bounced off of objects throughout the movie. At one point, Otto punches Garfield hard and he goes flying into a tree. As he peels off the bark and falls over, his face briefly look jagged and broken; Jinx swallows a small bird alive and she spits out a feather; Garfield gets electrocuted and we see his skeleton during this; An action scene takes place on top of a train, with lots of fighting between characters; A character tries to throw other characters from a great height to their death below, but they survive; Odie slaps Garfield across the face at his request; Garfield discovers a blanket he's using covers him in spiders, to which he completely freaks out about. Vic dumps a bag of wood chips on him, and we never see the arachnids again; Garfield and Odie are bagged and taken to an abandoned mall where they are strung up and hung by their feet upsidedown from a great height; Jinx runs at Garfield with an ax but misses and cuts a rope that was wrapped around Vic; A trapdoor opens under Garfield and it looks like he'd plummet to his demise, but we then see he landed on a large piece of cheese; Garfield puts on a helmet and willingly catapults himself toward a moving train, he then bounces off several objects, including bouncing between two trees many times before getting free; And lots of other comedic cartoony violence.


Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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