The Garfield Movie

Directed By Mark Dindal

Starring – Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddingham

The Plot – Garfield (voiced by Pratt), the world-famous, Monday-hating, lasagna-loving indoor cat, is about to have a wild outdoor adventure. After an unexpected reunion with his long-lost father, scruffy street cat Vic (voiced by Jackson), Garfield and his canine friend Odie (Harvey Guillen) are forced from their perfectly pampered life into joining Vic in a hilarious, high-stakes heist.

Rated PG for action/peril and mild thematic elements.

THE GARFIELD MOVIE – New Trailer (HD) (youtube.com)

POSITIVES

After two failed attempts inside of a live-action rendering, America’s favorite feline returns to the animated surroundings that once spawned his cultural impact, with what is easily the best film among them, regardless of comparable quality. Sony Animated Studios and particularly Dindal clearly has a lot of respect for this character, both in the return to familiar designs from the 90’s animated TV show, as well as the several clever Easter eggs and winks to the history of its character, which feels too cleverly subverted in various backdrops or interactions to be deduced to basic fan service. On the subject of said animation, Sony breathlessly brings to life the imaginative and expressive elements of this world that has made it a cherished property among its legions of fans, with vividly entrancing color and exaggerated emphasis in editing schemes that radiates wonderfully like a comic being brought to life. As previously stated, the return to form for Garfield and Odie are much appreciated, with emotional dexterity being conjured effortlessly in the depths of the designs, but even further the transition from TV to silver screen feels finally and fully realized within such a lusciously lavish presentation that pops on the biggest screen, making for many mouth-watering takes of Garfield’s lasagna that are so thoroughly defined that it feels we can reach out and grab it. However, animation isn’t the only thing that permeates impactfully, as the comedic material feels comfortably right at home with the caustic consistencies we’ve come to expect from the four-legged curmudgeon, producing a balanced variety of laughs between respective audience demographics that each will pull something charming from its various gags. For me, the highlight of which will always be the liberties that Garfield takes in his domestic situation with John, creating quite a few unusual reveals that only further paint the love and dependency between these two roommates, but the volume of slapstick bodily humor will undoubtedly appeal to younger audiences, allowing them to bask in the delight of Garfield feeling as elastic as a rubber band, with nine lives for such a cause. Surprisingly, the film isn’t just resting on the laurels of its comedic label, as an abundance of heart to the primary plot between father and long-lost son produce touching sentiments that the world of Garfield rarely taps into. As previously stated, the animation goes a long way towards conjuring boldly emotive eyes and facial registries that frequently tugged at my heart, but even beyond that the tribulations of abandonment plays such a defining characteristic in the uneasiness that drives their dynamic, but pleasantly without a cliched third act distancing between them that feels typical in films of every shape and size. Aside from this, ‘The Garfield Movie’ is also a breezy 91-minute engagement that refuses to test the patience of its audience, refusing to relent on my faithful focus that made this one of the easier watches that I’ve had so far in 2024. Part of this is for the emphasized urgency in the narrative that continuously keeps the storytelling moving forward, deviating between respective arcs that keeps any of them from growing stale, but for my money the overall pacing of the film keeps things consistently entertaining, offering maintained interests to youthful audiences, whose minds could easily wander in a movie that refuses to approach matters on their level. Lastly, despite the refusal to re-use any of the original voices from the original TV show, Sony has assembled quite a decorated ensemble to the opportunity, with many of them succeeding at attaining something memorable towards their undertaking. From a supporting perspective, Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong and Bowen Yang prove that they have a future in voice work, with spirited repertoires that range anywhere from menacing to quirky, and with the leads being delivered by two Avengers, in Pratt and Jackson, some of their established chemistry lends itself to a familial dynamic that proves the tremendous range between both of these Hollywood heavyweights. While neither loses familiarity in the depths of their delivered tones, both have tremendous range towards accomplishing something integral for their respective portrayals, with Pratt’s charisma exuding a more enthusiastic side to the titular protagonist, and Jackson’s suave swagger being exchanged for a tender sincerity that not only feels unique to anything the actor has done over the last decade, but also show-stealing for how the energy and ambiance of his deliveries never wither in the dependency of his usage towards the storytelling.

NEGATIVES

Though a refreshing upgrade from previous Garfield films, “The Garfield Movie” isn’t without flaws, particularly in the peril of thinly written screenplay that can be telegraphed from miles away. I’m certainly not asking for plot twists or shake-ups in a kids movie, especially since most twists would go over the heads of youthful audiences, but so much of this story feels borrowed or reshaped from other films to accommodate a Garfield story, and while I was thoroughly entertained with much of the direction that the film took these characters, my experiences with other similarly structured films of both genre and rendering made this the very definition of easily predictable. In addition, the timing balance certainly wasn’t suited to my preference, and as a result one vital character to the Garfield world gets ignored entirely from the finished product. As previously conveyed in the plot, the run time shares allowance between two respective arcs, one pertaining to Garfield and Odie’s long-distance journey with the former’s father, and the other being John’s worrying over his pets’ sudden disappearance, and while much of the attention is given to the former, it’s the latter where I found the most interest in the enveloping narrative, where I wish the film would’ve been centered primarily more towards an at-home setting between John, his pets, and this new furball who shows up quite literally out of nowhere. While it would’ve been similar to other Garfield shows and movies, it’s the home setting that essentially makes Garfield the out-of-control maniac that he’s supposed to be, and taking him out of such makes him lose all of the characteristics and actions that we’ve come to expect from him, in turn wasting away a credible performance from Nicholas Hoult, as John, who garners about eight minutes of collective screen time between the confines of a script that doesn’t care enough about him to include him on a meaningful level. Finally, much of the technical components range between downright brilliant to passable enough, but I found the sound mixing of the movie to be strangely inconsistent, especially during action sequences where elements of wind and environmental noise fall strangely inconsequential. For such a sound stickler like me, clearly concise vocal deposits feel irresponsible to the portrayal, taking me out of the engagement each time the volume of the actors grew louder, despite interacting with objects and speed in ways that obviously say otherwise.

OVERALL
“The Garfield Movie” scratches and claws its way to the single best Garfield movie to date, with colorfully rich animation and appreciation for the 45-year-old Jim Davis property that prove plenty of heart went into the opportunity. Despite occasionally feeling lackadaisical between uneven focus and derivative material, the electric combination between Pratt and Jackson are enough to balance heart towards its barrels of laughs for all audiences, in turn eliciting an entertaining engagement that doesn’t have to be purrrfect to be pawesome.

My Grade: 7/10 or B-

2 thoughts on “The Garfield Movie

  1. Ooooh thanks for giving me real hope for this one. The previous ones seemed so terrible that I didn’t understand why they would try again and with PRATT NO LESS. But all your positives lead me to believe this would be a great watch with my daughter! It doesn’t sound like the negatives would impact her enjoying it – but she’s also nearly 2 so the threshold ain’t that high! Great review, dude!

  2. This one sounds surprisingly good! I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but after reading your review I may end up taking Nora to go see it! I like Chris Pratt, although he seems to be in everything nowadays, and the movie seems like it has the potential to be entertaining. Great review!

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