While hardcore Garfield fans will no doubt chuckle more than once at this big-screen treatment, those who think the comic strip only mildly amusing or don't even know it at all will find spending an hour and half with the annoying fat, ginger-colored, CGI-enhanced cat excruciating.
Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) has got a pretty sweet life. The corpulent and sardonic cat lays about the house, hurling insults at his beleaguered owner Jon (voiced by Breckin Meyer) and continually looking for his next meal, including a particular favorite, lasagna. But it all goes horribly wrong for the obese feline when Jon brings home a perky, tail-wagging, lovable dog named Odie, who chases his tail till he's dizzy and crashes into walls all to Jon's unbridled delight. To top it off, Odie actually likes Garfield. Could it get any worse? Not to be outdone by a canine, Garfield quickly remedies the situation by kicking the mutt out of the house one night and watching Odie disappear down the street. But when Garfield finds out the next day that Odie has been dog-napped by a local TV celebrity, Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky), a sadistic fellow looking for a dog to make his act better, the cat is overwhelmed with a new emotion--guilt. Garfield decides he'd better right his wrongs, so he hauls his lazy butt off his comfy chair and sets out to rescue his only friend.
Bill Murray's expert comic timing barely keeps Garfield from being one of the worst comic strip-to-film adaptations ever (how many of those are there, anyway?). He is perfect as the flippant, lazy, oh-so-unlikable yet somehow redeemable Garfield, a part certainly tuned to the Oscar-nominated actor's sensibilities. But while we appreciate Murray's participation, the fact still remains Garfield's ''it's-all-about-Me-Ow'' persona is tediously irritating--and without Murray's great facial expressions to back up the endless stream of caustic one-liners, the film soon becomes interminable. Not to mention how completely useless the rest of the human cast is in bringing anything exciting into the mix. Meyer (Road Trip) is just as milquetoast as they come, while Jon's love interest, a veterinarian played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, is relegated to standing around in short skirts with a pleasant smile on her face. Blech. Even the villain, played adequately by character actor Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day), is typically over the top with little substance. Garfield's only other saving grace are the other vocal talents, including David Eigenberg (HBO's Sex and the City) as a dim-witted Siamese cat and Nick Cannon (Drumline ) as a helpful mouse. That's right, the movie is saved by a cat and a mouse.
It's hard enough to try to make a movie about a rotund feline who does nothing but eat and belittle those around him, but for heaven's sake, couldn't those Hollywood creative types come up with something a little more original? Of course, director Peter Hewitt (The Borrowers) wants to appease all those Garfield fans, doing his best to bring the comic strip to life. The CGI-created Garfield looks great, much as Scooby-Doo did, as he moves realistically among the human folk. Perhaps a CGI Odie would have worked better, instead of using a real dog, but the cat-dog relationship is still amusing. There are also plenty of inside references such as Garfield's opening line, ''I hate Mondays'' and showing the cat smashed up against the rear window of a car like that puzzling but popular car decoration. Thing is, will children of this generation get any of those '80s references? Probably not. The filmmakers decide they'll just feed the kids a totally banal story, figuring they'll go along with it and pay more attention to Garfield's wacky antics. But kids are savvier today. Family flicks goes beyond the trite fare of yesteryear--and kids are getting used to excellence, especially with the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks around. Garfield will never make the cut.
Even with Bill Murray's comic stylings, in this day and age of Shreks and Finding Nemos, kids demand better quality than Garfield's drivel. Better just to keep this fat cat suctioned to the car window.