Blame the source material. The repetitive and one-dimensional Garfield is loosely based on Jim Davis' repetitive and one-dimensional comic strip. For those unfamiliar with the 'toon, Garfield's a tubby tabby with a taste for lasagna. He barely tolerates his wimpy owner, Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer), and engages in a love-hate relationship with Odie, a dopey but earnest pooch.
It's hardly enough material for a three-panel comic, and definitely not enough for a feature-length film. Screenwriters Joel Cohen (not that one) and Alec Sokolow make some changes - Jon's more hero than zero here - and pad their effort with a love interest (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and a menacing cable access morning show host (Stephen Tobolowsky). He kidnaps Odie so he finally can land a job on network television. (Don't ask.) There are also two lengthy musical interludes that are obvious time-fillers (in a 75-minute movie). One, called "New Dog State of Mind," is set to Billy Joel's mopey ode to the Big Apple, "New York State of Mind." I'm willing to bet it was this horrific rendition that sent Joel spinning off the road and into the nearest East Hampton estate.
Like a spinning saucer of skim milk, Garfield has combustible energy but lacks creativity. It's marginally better than The Cat in the Hat, though that's like saying suffocation is mildly more amusing than drowning. For reasons unknown, the film uses low-budget computer effects to create the Garfield character, but then relies on actual dogs and cats with celebrity voices (from Debra Messing to Brad Garrett) for the film's other pet parts. The trained animals, however, repeatedly upstage the cartoon cat in various scenes. It's much more impressive watching a real dog dance on his hind legs than watching a digital creation do the same trick.
So why did Murray follow up his emotionally sound turn in Sofia Coppola's award-winning Lost in Translation with this toothless mess? As the voice of the glutinous feline, Murray certainly seems to be having fun. He tap-dances through the tired script with his sarcasm in tune, though a few droll ad-libs might have helped sharpen this movie's claws. Garfield's feeble material alternates between stale puns and weak put-downs. He's like a neutered Don Rickles or a catatonic Rodney Dangerfield. After hitting his head for the umpteenth time, Garfield tells Jon that he'll have to have "a cat scan." Tell him to get in line behind the people who pay to see this film.
Back it up!
Box Office Worldwide: $199M
Production compaines: Davis Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Director: Peter Hewitt
Producer: John Davis
Starring: Breckin Meyer as Jon, Jennifer Love Hewitt as Liz, Stephen Tobolowsky as Happy Chapman, Bill Murray as Garfield (voice), Evan Arnold as Wendell, Mark Christopher Lawrence as Christopher Mello, Vanessa Christelle as Miss Ace Hardware, Daamen J. Krall as Announcer, Eve Brent as Mrs. Baker, Bill Hoag as Roy the Lodge Member, Michael Monks as Deputy Hopkins, Mel Rodriguez as Security Officer, Juliette Goglia as Little Girl, Jerry Hauck as Cop