You wouldn’t know by watching Garfield: The Movie that it’s adapted from Jim Davis’s adorable but one-joke comic strip about a lazy cat with an insatiable love for lasagna and a cynical response for everything. I much preferred “Garfield and Friends,” the Saturday morning toon which ran on CBS for six years beginning in 1988 (you know, the one where Garfield didn’t sing and surf down stairwells), but this humiliating film doesn’t seem aimed at either fans of the underrated series or Davis’s 26-year-old strip. When Jon (Brecken Meyer) brings Odie home from the vet, Garfield understandably feels left out. After the cat perpetuates the dog’s disappearance, guilt sets in and the feline must rescue the pooch from the evil clutches of TV goon Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky). Not only does director Peter Hewitt make absolutely no attempt to evoke the look of the boxed-in strip or bring color to the film’s aesthetic (clearly the suits at Fox didn’t send the crew copies of Babe: Pig in the City or Stuart Little before production began), screenwriters Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow turn the Bea Arthur of the feline world into a coked-up blabbermouth who trades in pop-cultural parts. The original Garfield liked to conserve his energy—he barely spoke, but the monstrosity Bill Murray brings to life doesn’t shut the fuck up. For anyone who didn’t want to crawl into the fetal position when Shaggy grew breasts and a pimped-out Scooby danced with Ruben Studdard in Monsters Unleashed, then there’s probably something here for you: lame pop-cultural references (“Got milk?”), even lamer wordplay (Garfield is apparently on a “Catkins diet” and mentions that he once had to get a catscan), tired pop songs to dress up how soulless the set pieces are. Sure, that’s the same shit that fuels the bogus Shrek 2, but CGI Garfield has nothing on Antonio Banderas’s wide-eyed, scene-stealing Puss In Boots. (One teeny mitigating factor: Pookie is still adorable.) A word of warning: The cat’s love of lasagna is still intact, but the feline is the only CGI creation in the film. As if the voice-work in the film wasn’t lousy enough, you still have to deal with the sight of a computer-animated Garfield shaking his rump to a hip-hop video (The Black Eyed Peas or Carmen Elektra—I couldn’t tell, I was looking through the space between my index and middle fingers) and sharing screen time with a real-life Jack Russell Terrier whose tongue has nothing on the real Odie’s. Oh yeah, Jennifer Love Hewitt is also in it.
Considering how pitifully shot Garfield: The Movie is, it’s all the more impressive that skin tones are so luxurious throughout this DVD edition of the film. Color saturation is remarkable throughout, and there’s very little in the way of edge enhancement. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is spotty at best. The score is truly expansive, but it has a way of drowning out dialogue. Bill Murray’s voice is excellently rendered, but everyone else’s is on the flat side.
After a compilation reel of Fox Home Video titles from the last few months, you get to choose between full screen and widescreen versions of Garfield: The Movie. The titular cat dances to Spanish salsa on the DVD’s interactive menu. Not quite as embarrassing is the commentary track by producer John Davis (not to be confused with the comic’s animator Jim Davis) and director Pete Hewitt. The track was curiously recorded one week prior to the film’s theatrical release, which may explain why the duo is completely dead serious about the experience. Finally, in the "Inside Look" section you’ll find previews of Robots, Because of Winn Dixie, and a music video for Baha Men’s "Hola!"
In the immortal words of Bob Barker: Remember to have your pets spayed or neutered.