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Case Number 05831

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Garfield: The Movie

Fox // 2004 // 82 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 20th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle offers to make a lovely lasagne for the first woman who agrees to marry him.

The Charge

Get ready for frisky business!

Opening Statement

After spending decades toiling in the funny pages…and in books…and on Saturday morning cartoons, pencils, notebooks, cereal boxes, thermoses, lunch bags, packaged and processed foods, posters, fruit rollups, barf bags, sports equipment, drink boxes, and, of course, suction cups stuck to car windows, Garfield the cat finally made his 2004 motion picture debut in the cleverly titled Garfield: The Movie. Starring Breckin Meyer (Rat Race), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Heartbreakers), Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day), and Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) as the voice of the irascible Garfield, Garfield: The Movie sharpens its claws on DVD care of Fox Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

Garfield the cat's existence is planted on easy street: he lives in a comfy house with his owner, Jon Arbuckle (Meyer), and pretty much has his run of the place. Garfield enjoys sleeping, eating lasagna, and acting like a feline prima donna. Garfield's life is suddenly flipped upside down when John brings home a new dog named Odie, put in his care by Dr. Liz (Love Hewitt), a veterinarian that Jon has an enormous crush on. When an unscrupulous TV host named Happy Chapman (Tobolowsky) finds out that Odie is a very talented doggie dancer, he kidnaps Odie and plans to lock him in an electrocuting collar and make him a practical circus attraction on various TV stations. It's soon up to Garfield to save the day before Odie becomes a permanent part of Happy's cruel scheme.

It's Garfield's world…we're just living in it.

The Evidence

I loved, loved, loved the comic strip "Garfield" when I was a kid. In fact, my dad's cousin went to school with his creator, Jim Davis. Garfield ran in my blood…well, not really, but that sounded pretty cool, huh? Anyhow, I had all the books when I was younger, as well as mugs, toys, stuffed animals, and almost anything related to that fat cat and his 'toony world. While my tastes have become much more refined over the years (refined = watching the Porky's trilogy on a Friday night), I've always maintained a soft spot in my heart for Garfield, his hapless owner Jon Arbuckle, and the always entertaining—and endlessly stupid—Odie.

Needless to say, I was interested—if not wholly excited—when I heard that news that they were making a live action Garfield movie. After reading rumblings on the internet, I finally saw the theatrical trailer and it was…well, plainly put, it was God-awful. I can still remember watching the trailer and thinking, "They've botched this up so bad that it won't make a dime at the box office." I was wrong to the tune of around $75 million—while it wasn't a runaway success, Garfield: The Movie did decent business. And I couldn't make any judgment calls since I refused to see it upon its theatrical release.

When I finally did see Garfield: The Movie, my reaction was better than I expected, though not by a lot. Though Garfield did not end up being the titanic disaster I'd predicted, it had its share of flaws. For the sake of ease, here are a few of the good and bad things I found in Garfield: The Movie:

Good: Bill Murray's voice over work is spot-on: I'm not sure who had the idea to use the sleepy eyed comedy actor for Garfield's vocal chords, but he pulls it off with flying colors.

Bad: The plot to this movie is both stupid and lazy—could the screenwriters not figure out anything to do with Garfield other have him chase after a lackluster plot involving a boring love story, dog catchers, and mean-spirited TV show hosts?

Good: The casting of Breckin Meyer is about as good as you're going to get for Jon Arbuckle, Garfield's owner. I don't know why, but he really does look like the comic strip version of Jon. Same with Stephen Tobolowsky; though I don't remember his character in the strip, he looks like he could have walked right off the page. Spooky.

Bad: Why is Garfield a CGI creation while Odie and the rest of the other animals are all real? That kind of takes the fun out of Odie's comic character—his dumb dog expressions were part of his appeal. In this movie, he looks like a randomly chosen dog without much personality. And the same goes for Nermal the cat—is there a reason he's a real cat? And not even like the comic strip character he's supposedly based on?

Bad: Though the writers have done a relatively decent job of pinpointing Garfield's narcissistic attitude, most of the dialogue is banal and feels like filler for the next fat cat joke. Jon Arbuckle's character is woefully underwritten and—like many other characters in the movie originally based on the comic strip—very different than what Davis's comics portrayed.

Good: The movie wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That seems like small potatoes, but considering how vile and hideous I found the trailer, I'm thankful I didn't want to reach into my DVD player, pull out the disc, and run barbed wire across its surface.

Bad: Even though it wasn't as bad as I expected, it wasn't very good, either.

I think that Garfield: The Movie will entertain most kids, to a point: it's got a few cute cats and dogs, a large animated fat cat, and some slapstick humor. However, I can't help but feel as though the makers of the film could have done a better job at making Garfield something truly special.

Or, maybe there's only so much you can do with a comic strip based on a cat that pushes dogs off the table and tortures his owner.

Garfield: The Movie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, as well as a lackluster full frame transfer. The widescreen presentation on this disc looks good, if not great—the colors are smoothly rendered without any bleeding. The black levels are all solid and dark. Dirt, grain, and other major imperfections are noticeably absent. There is a bit of fuzziness in a few scenes, but otherwise this is a decent looking picture.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. This isn't that exciting of a sound mix, though it supports the film well. There are a few surrounds to be found here, mostly from when either Garfield is talking or when a pop/rock songs kicks in on the track. Otherwise, this is a mostly front-heavy track that utilizes some ambient sounds or background noises. Also included on this disc are Spanish and French Dolby 2.0 soundtracks, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.

The supplements on Garfield: The Movie are fairly shabby: the meatiest is a commentary track by director Peter Hewitt and producer John Davis discussing what it was like to work on a film dominated by animals and a main character that wasn't ever there. There are a few scattered tidbits to be found in this track (Billy Murray was a Garfield fan, which is why he came on board), though otherwise this is all tedious and not very interesting, since the movie is often tedious and not very interesting.

The only other extra features available are a promo feature on the upcoming Robots and Because of Winn-Dixie, plus a music video from the film.

Closing Statement

Garfield: The Movie is innocuous entertainment—if you were/are a fan of the comic strip, you'll find a few laughs here, though by the end you'll be wondering why they didn't do more with America's favorite lasagna lovin' feline. Fox's work on this disc is pretty apt—by the end I didn't feel as if I needed any more extra features about Garfield, expect maybe a few comic strips to remind me where he came from.

The Verdict

Garfield: The Movie is slapped with a fine for being only mediocre, and sentenced to six months in the big house with only the comic book version of Nermal as his only company.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 91
Audio: 88
Extras: 75
Acting: 75
Story: 70
Judgment: 71

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• All Ages
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Track with Director Peter Hewitt and Producer John Davis
• Robots and Because of Winn-Dixie Promotional Spot
• Music Video

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