‘Garfield Movie’ Forgets What Makes the Feline Fun

Serviceable kiddie film comes to life when Ving Rhames enters the frame

Mark Dindal’s “The Garfield Movie” finds the title character on a journey of self-realization that includes meeting his deadbeat father and improving his friendships with lifelong pal, Odie and Jon.

Yes, someone thought it was a good idea to take one of the most endearingly self-absorbed figures from the Sunday Morning Funnies and stacks of published books and give him a cute saga about becoming a better cat.


In this entirely CGI animated comedy, Garfield (Chris Pratt) and Odie are forced by a feline super villain named Jinx (Hannah Waddingham) to perform a dangerous heist. The overly complicated plot has Garfield collaborating on the robbery with a lovesick bull named Otto (Ving Rhames, the best thing about the movie).

Garfield also reteams with his father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson) and struggles to reconnect with him after years of neglect.

“The Garfield Movie” is slightly better and more ambitious than expected, but the determination to take Garfield out of his environment presents mixed results.

It begins with Garfield texting, ordering junk online and staring endlessly at his phone. Why not try to engage with the irritating portion of the movie theater audience instead of stooping to their level?

The idea that Garfield has become mindlessly obsessed with his phone has satirical promise but here, it’s celebratory and introduces an avalanche of unwelcome product placement (Garfield watches “Catflix.” Har har) and misguided pop culture references.


A prequel that humanizes the sarcastic tabby is a trendy but tone-deaf choice, as Jim Davis’ character (who has been with us since 1978) has managed to remain reliably hilarious for decades because, well, he’s a cat. Garfield is spoiled, greedy, selfish and out only for himself.

That’s the appeal, and he already has Odie to humanize him.

Pratt’s unmemorable take on the character has nothing on the distinct and funny vocal turn from Bill Murray in the otherwise unexceptional “Garfield” (2004). Despite how out of place he is, Jackson can be counted on to give a reliably professional vocal turn.

I’m not sure what Nicolas Hoult was aiming for in his vocal performance as Jon Arbuckle (the character now sounds downright psychotic).


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What works here is Rhames, voicing an odd character and giving a center to the busy second act. The big heist that becomes the central plot point is commonplace for contemporary animated films (just like “G-Force” and “The Nut Job”) but at least it’s well done.

Jinx, the crazed Persian cat is too scary for young kids but too limp for everyone else. At least her awful musical number is kept to late in the end credits.

References are made to Nermal and Binky the Clown – the movie could have seriously used them. In fact, none of the Garfield movies so far (not even the forgettable but adorably titled “Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties”) have matched the wit and offbeat plotting of “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure,” the televised 1985 animated special that’s funny enough to watch every October.

I’m unconvinced that making Garfield an entirely animated CGI cartoon was a good idea because I liked the low-key, live-action support from Breckin Meyer as Arbuckle and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Garfield’s veterinarian in the 2004 film.

Garfield (1/5) Movie CLIP - Cat and Mouse (2004) HD

I took my eight-year-old daughter to see “The Garfield Movie” and she loved it. On the other hand, my little girl also loves “Chicken Little,” which was also directed by Dindal, and one of the few CGI animated Disney comedies I cannot stand.

Dindal’s latest is better than “Chicken Little,” thankfully, but only in its weird second act. When we’re stuck watching Garfield place online food orders and acting “hip,” it gave me serious “Chicken Little” flashbacks. Actually, seeing Garfield bop along to The Black Eyed Peas in the 2004 movie was also pretty cringe-worthy.

You know what? Forget “The Garfield Movie.” Just watch “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure” instead.

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