Sunday, June 23, 2024

Movie Review: ‘The Garfield Movie’ is Lazy, Standard Family Fare

Director: Mark Dindal
Writers: Paul A. Kaplan, Mark Torgrove, David Reynolds
Stars: Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddingham

Synopsis: After Garfield’s unexpected reunion with his long-lost father, ragged alley cat Vic, he and his canine friend Odie are forced from their perfectly pampered lives to join Vic on a risky heist.

Since the boom in nostalgia culture that has ravaged all of mainstream entertainment, there has been a culling of the depths to find familiar properties to make new again. It’s branded entertainment and the saddest aspect is it’s working. People are spending their money, or worse their time, with entertainment that has no value other than the profit the company makes off our stupidity. That’s what The Garfield Movie is. It’s a cash grab with a familiar face on it.

Nostalgic adults who read the comic strip, enjoyed the “Garfield and Friends” cartoon show, or even thought the live action Garfield: The Movie from 20 years ago was all right, are going to waste their time. This Garfield is unrecognizable from the 46 year old fat, lazy Monday hating, lasagna loving cat. It feels like writers Paul A. Kaplan, Mark Torgrove, and David Reynolds wrote a script for an animated movie and while they pitched it to Sony, the executives said, “You know who would be great for this? Garfield.”

The plot is finely tuned. It has all of the elements of a basic story with a nice tidy bow of a wrap up. It’s just not actually a Garfield story. It’s overly and unnecessarily saccharine. It has none of Garfield’s bite or wit. The characters are the shallowest interpretation of their familiar selves. Odie is mentally and emotionally intelligent. Jon has no personality or presence. Liz the veterinarian shows up for two scenes and Nermal is a blink and you miss it cameo. The new characters are all stock animated archetypes. The absent father, the jilted crime partner, the hapless henchmen, the overzealous security guard, the beaten down hero of the hero. It’s nostalgia without the actual nostalgia. It makes one wonder if they hired Chris Pratt because he seems to have no interest in doing a familiar inflection to a well known character.

It’s hard to get excited to see Chris Pratt’s name on an animated film. He just doesn’t do anything new with his voice to get into the character. It worked for him when he was cast in The Lego Movie because that’s a new character in a new universe and his vocal style worked for the enthusiasm of the character. It worked again for him in Onward because before he got into great shape, he used to exude that sort of going nowhere, older brother energy. But with last year’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie and now The Garfield Movie, he’s just not getting the assignment. His voice is a distraction from what’s going on in the film. 

Though it’s a bad film for child free, nostalgic adults, it’s a decent film for families. It’s a movie that any kid who doesn’t know Garfield from Heathcliff can enjoy. The animation is very slick with every pet and animal looking like they are very fuzzy and pettable. The environments are colorful and intriguing. The food looks so good you’ll wish the film had smell-o-vision for those parts. The action is engaging and the jokes are familiar, but can land with the right audience with some for the adults and some for the kids. 

That is the trouble with thrashing a film like The Garfield Movie. The film does no real harm in the world and is something for families to enjoy being at together. Nostalgic adults should try much harder not to be nostalgic adults and let the kids have their new version. This version isn’t for anyone who wants to see a real Garfield movie. It’s a sort of split between a C grade family comedy and an F grade adaptation of a well known character. It’s really not worth it either way unless you just can’t find anything else to do for the long weekend.

Grade: D

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