Cat’s Eye View
Fat cat Garfield comes to life through Bill Murray.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Bill Murray ( Lost In Translation ) breathes vocal life into the cynical orange tabby cat Garfield, based on Jim Davis’ classic cartoon strip, in this rollicking kid’s comedy that seamlessly combines computer-generated imagery with real actors and animals. Garfield’s comfy home life is challenged when his owner Jon (Breckin Meyer, Kate and Leopold ) adopts a dog named Odie to curry romantic favor with veterinarian Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt, The Tuxedo ). But Garfield’s antipathy toward Odie soon turns to loyalty when a sadistic TV celebrity dog trainer (Stephen Tobolowsky) kidnaps the dog, and Garfield resolves to rescue his canine buddy. Although Breckin Meyer comes off as a poor man’s Noah Wyle, Bill Murray savors every syllable of Garfield’s chewy dialogue.
The primary achievement of the movie is its strict
adherence to the narrative boundaries that Jim Davis has
carefully crafted over the last 25 years.
A virtue of Davis’ breezy comic is that he has so thoroughly modeled Garfield’s personality from the perspective of a real life cat that audiences will easily relate to the plump tabby as a feline with a human, albeit sardonic, point of view.
Garfield holds onto fundamental beliefs that translate well into the vernacular of childhood reality. His ongoing inner monologue—via Bill Murray—drives the movie as the audience is shifted between the animal domain that Garfield navigates and a menacing adult world that interrupts his perfect plan for eating, sleeping, and watching television. We get a full range of Garfield’s signature personality aspects, like his love for lasagna, and his devoted but tangy philosophy regarding his master’s existence. But it isn’t until Jon, the love-struck homemaker, adopts Odie at the vet’s behest that Garfield’s surly disposition hits full stride. The culmination of Garfield’s jealousy and competitive streak occurs when the chubby orange cat instigates a dance contest with Odie that eventually, and unintentionally, exposes the dancing dog to the clutches of one pernicious animal talk show host Harry Chapman (Tobolowsky).
Garfield is a gentle but fast-paced movie about sibling rivalry, with a domineering cat and an inquisitive dog serving as competitors on the same family team. British director Pete Hewitt ( Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey ) maintains a proper off-kilter tone for the humor and keeps the pacing snappy for a movie that parents will enjoy taking their young children to see. It may not be the next Spider-Man, but Garfield is a notably good kid’s movie.
GARFIELD (2 Stars)
Directed by Pete Hewitt
Starring Bill Murray (voice), Jennifer Love Hewitt, Breckin Meyer
(Rated PG, 90 mins.)