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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Garfield: The Movie (2004)

Liz: There's nothing wrong with Garfield. He's just a fat, happy, lazy cat.
Garfield: No second opinion needed.

- Jennifer Love Hewitt, Bill Murray

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: October 21, 2004

Stars: Bill Murray, Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt
Other Stars: Stephen Tobolowsky, Nick Cannon, Alan Cumming, David Eigenberg, Brad Garrett, Jimmy Kimmel, Debra Messing, Richard Kind, Debra Jo Rupp
Director: Pete Hewitt

Manufacturer: PDMC
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language
Run Time: 01h:20m:05s
Release Date: October 19, 2004
UPC: 024543146735
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C-A-B C-

DVD Review

For the past 26-odd years, cartoonist Jim Davis has been recycling the same series of jokes in the Garfield comic strip. Garfield is lazy. He likes to sleep and eat lasagna. He doesn't chase mice. He's afraid of spiders. He picks on his owner Jon and Jon's dog, Odie. I guess I'm what you'd call a fan—sometimes Davis does manage to pull off a good sight gag—but mostly I read the strip because I like cats (and, I suppose, because I read every comic printed when I do bother to sit down with the funny pages. Well, except stuff like Mary Worth and Funky Winkerbean, which nobody reads). But, for the most part, the strip has continued to exist far past its expiration date because it's a merchandising monster—T-shirts, whimsical coffee cups for the "funny" guy in the cubical next to you, sun-faded stuffed animals suctioned-cupped to car windows, and on and on. So, really, why should I have expected a movie based on a worn-out, over-merchandised character to be anything less than a worn-out excuse to sell merchandise? I blame the cat.

Cats are never treated well in Hollywood. Dogs jump away from explosions in Jerry Bruckheimer films, to the claps and cheers of the audience. Felines get humiliated in Cats & Dogs. I just wanted to see a movie with a cat that wasn't getting chased by a dog or abused by a stupid bird. Unfortunately, Garfield: The Movie was not the droid I was looking for.

Fox's live-action adaptation (why?) was a miscalculation right from the start. If you want to make Garfield CGI, fine, but then why is he the only animal that's done in that fashion? The rest of the dogs and cats all talk using those special effects from Babe and don't seem to notice that Garfield is a freakish monstrosity. I mean, the CGI looks wonderful, but he doesn't exactly look like a cat. He even has round pupils. Cats are very observant (assuming they are actually looking at something when they stare at the wall for 11 minutes), and I think they would notice stuff like that.

Why bother with such trivial details? Because the rest of the film isn't worth mentioning. In a brilliant move by the filmmakers, every other aspect, from the barely-there love story between owner Jon (Breckin Meyer) and vet Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the supporting cats (including Arlene and Nermal, totally changed from the comic, and voiced by Debra Messing and David Eigenberg), to the warmed-over plot (Garfield must save Odie from cookie-cutter villain, in this case a TV host played by character actor Steven Tobolowsky who sees the talented pup as his shot at the big-time [whatever]), is extra boring, so Garfield seems more interesting in comparison.

Not that Garfield is all that well done, either. Other than the fact that he's orange, fat, and likes to eat, he bears only a minimal resemblance to the actual Garfield. I mean, physically, I guess he's as close an approximation as you're going to get in CGI. The animation is certainly impressive—his fur looks real enough to pet—but he's pretty lifeless. Bill Murray provides the voice, and he'd seem like a good choice, but he sounds bored. Not that I blame him, with a script that offers up such fresh catch phrases as "You had me at hello," "I love the smell of (insert joke here) in the morning," and "Got milk?" I mean, seriously, was this script written in 1997?

Garfield will probably appeal to young children. It's got a lot of cute animals in it, Garfield is colorful, and there are a lot of jaunty chase sequences and cartoony sight gags. But anyone with affection for the character, or an attention span longer than my cat's, will probably want to steer clear.

The movie may be a dog, but the DVD isn't. Video quality is very good, with full-screen and anamorphic widescreen transfers offered on the same side on the disc. Colors are bright, detail is sharp and shows good dimensionality, and I noticed no artifacts or aliasing. The audio track is less impressive, a front-heavy affair that features a wide front soundstage but minimal support from the surrounds.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Pete Hewitt, producer John Davis
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Baha Men music video Holla!
  2. Inside Looks at Robots and Because of Winn-Dixie
Extras Review: For those of you who like Garfield enough to check out a disc of extra features, know that this basically bare-bones release will be replaced soon enough by a two-disc "Fat Cat" edition (R2 is getting it right off the bat). Just a little marketing plan Fox is trying out. Isn't that nice of them? So just give this a rental if bonus material is your thing. Certainly don't buy both, that will just encourage them.

Anyway, the only real film-related extra on this disc is a commentary with director Pete Hewitt and producer John Davis (not to be confused with Garfield creator Jim Davis). It was recorded shortly before the film's release, so don't expect them to have a lot of perspective on its commercial and critical reception. They mostly focus on the technical challenges of putting together such an effects-heavy film. Though that's just as well, I suppose, since that was obviously their emphasis during production, too. Certainly wasn't the script. The track is OK if you like technical discussion, but I found it pretty slow-going.

Garfield and Odie also appear in a music video for the song Holla! by the Baha Men. You remember them, they let the dogs out, and they're the only hip-hop influenced group to get the middle-aged white parents seal of approval (if my dad is any indication, anyway).

The music video plays when you select "A Look Inside," after you sit through promo pieces for the CGI animated film Robots and the loveable dog story Because of Winn Dixie (because heaven knows, we are about due for a loveable dog film... what's it been, 13 seconds since the last film in the "sports-playing dog, re-uniter of families" genre?).

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

As a cat person disgusted with Hollywood's apparent dog bias, I really wanted to like Garfield. Unfortunately, the movie is just an excuse to show off nifty CGI techniques—the human characters are dull as cat litter, the comedy is as fresh as canned tuna, and the plot is thinner than the newsprint that has carried the titular character's strip for the last three decades. For the kids only. Even my cat (a Garfield clone) got bored. Life's too short, even if you've got nine of them.


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