The Garfield Movie Review

The Garfield Movie
Tabby cat Garfield (Chris Pratt) reunites with his estranged father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson) after he is cat-napped by wicked Persian cat Jinx (Hannah Waddingham).

by John Nugent |
Published on

Garfield — the lasagne-loving, Monday-hating, greedy, grumpy cat originating in Jim Davis’ long-running comic strip — is an awkward fit for a kids’ film. He’s a cynic forced to be a family-friendly goofball, a sarcastic hero being sold to an audience of under-tens with an undeveloped sense of sarcasm, a square pessimist peg in a round optimistic hole. It has been tried unsuccessfully before, in 2004’s Garfield: The Movie and its sequel — those films most notable for the fact that Bill Murray signed on to voice Garfield because he mistakenly (he claimed) thought one of the Coen brothers was behind it.

The Garfield Movie

This latest attempt details how Garfield (Chris Pratt, miscast) first met his human ‘pet’, Jon (Nicholas Hoult), and became estranged from his father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson), before the stubborn housecat finds himself on a madcap heist adventure. Whether or not you think this is an origin story that needs to be told — can a cartoon animal in a three-panel newspaper strip truly have a rich inner life? — there is a level of schmaltz to this story which never justifies itself.

It’s all either inert snark, embarrassing dad jokes, pointless cameos, or just baffling plot diversions

Sure, the animation is bright and colourful and energetic enough. It comes from Sony, whose groundbreaking work on Spider-Verse goes without saying. But in its visual and comedic approach, The Garfield Movie looks and feels exactly like an Illumination film: a big, glossy crowdpleaser in the Minions mould, factory-made for tired mums and dads looking for something to keep noisy children quiet for a bit.

The Garfield Movie

Pickings left for parents are extremely slim. There are deeply first-base movie references to the likes of Mission: ImpossibleTop Gun and, bizarrely, Fargo. As evil cackling luvvie Jinx, Hannah Waddingham is perhaps the film’s MVP, and there is maybe one decent joke in there concerning a ‘Used Catapults’ store.

Otherwise, it’s all either inert snark (“In case you’re wondering, I do my own stunts!”), embarrassing dad jokes (“Are you feline sad...?”), pointless cameos (Snoop Dogg plays a cat for some reason — kids love Snoop Dogg, right?) or just baffling plot diversions (it is heavily implied that two dairy cows, who enjoy a lengthy emotional subplot, have sex).

This comes from director Mike Dindal and writer David Reynolds, the team behind the sublime and still underrated The Emperor’s New Groove. There is almost none of that film’s sharp wit or Chuck Jones-esque visual comedy. Instead, we are left with first-draft-level dialogue, grotesque product placement, and a weirdly sentimental tone — none of which belong in a Garfield movie. Or maybe Garfield just doesn’t belong in a movie?

This latest attempt to adapt the world’s laziest cat for the big screen just feels plain lazy: pure kids’-movie-by-numbers. The cinematic equivalent of a Monday.
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