Film reviews and more since 2009

The Garfield Movie (2024) review

Dir. Mark Dindal

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★½

You don’t need a magnifying glass to be able to discern the appeal of the long-running Garfield comic strip by Jim Davis. Garfield’s eternal appeal stems from his laziness, apathetic attitude to the world around him, his fleeting interest in his adopted brother, a dog named Odie, his sarcastic comments, and of course, his insatiable appetite for lasagna. Granted, these ingredients themselves are difficult to sustain a 90-minute movie on their own, but I’d go out on a limb and say we cat lovers are more than content to watch a hangout movie featuring Garfield, Odie, and their human owner Jon.

So, why on Earth do screenwriters Paul A. Kaplan, Mark Torgove, and David Reynolds instead drop Garfield and Odie into a cockamamie kidnapping plot that eventually has them trying to navigate a dangerous factory farm in pursuit of milk? When The Garfield Movie isn’t having the titular cat slobbering over Italian delicacies, it hurls a needlessly busy, overly dark plot at its viewers; one that is filled with drab colors and dark story beats that, worse than scare, are liable to bore younger viewers.

The film begins with Garfield (voiced by Chris Pratt, about as uninterested in doing any kind of real voice-acting as Garfield is at exerting energy) relaying the story of how he met his human owner, Jon (Nicholas Hoult). Garfield was a kitten, whose cat criminal father left him alone in a box by himself on a stormy night in order to scrounge for food. The scent of lasagna led Garfield to beg outside the window of an Italian restaurant, where he met Jon. Later, they adopted a dog named Odie (Harvey Guillén), and became creatures of habit, snacks, and ample couch-time.

This maudlin, cutesy opening, which includes the film’s best scene (a “Monday” montage), isn’t anything stellar, but it’s entertaining and adorable enough to merit smiles. All of that is abruptly discarded when Garfield and Odie are kidnapped by two hideous-looking dogs named Roland (Brett Goldstein) and Nolan (Bowen Yang). Enter Garfield’s dad, Vic (Samuel L. Jackson), who tries to rescue him, but not before a villain named Jinx (Hannah Waddingham) has her way. Vic abandoned Jinx on a milk-run years ago, and now she wants revenge.

Jinx wants exactly 1,675 quarts of milk, which Garfield, Odie, and Vic have to steal from a small little family-farm known as Lactose Farms, where the owners can somehow afford factory floors, machinery, and equipment the size and scale of Anheuser-Busch. The three must work to encourage the farm’s contentious bull mascot, Otto (Ving Rhames), to help them break into Lactose Farms and obtain the milk.

So much of The Garfield Movie is shrouded in dark, dingy colors and settings. The film’s eye-popping orange posters and origins as a colorful comic-strip are discarded in favor of hellish backdrops whenever Jinx appears, a towering factory where the scale is all thrown off (Garfield and Odie are about six times smaller than blocks of cheese being fed into a fondue pot), and at one point, Garfield is ricocheted back and forth while trying to jump aboard a moving train.

The most vibrant visual bits of the film come in the form of flashbacks to Garfield’s kittenhood. While they’re obvious attempts at emotional manipulation, they are admittedly adorable, and often a relief from the oppressively dark nature of the film. Only more shocking is the fact that The Garfield Movie was directed by Mark Dindal, whose previous animated features, including Cats Don’t Dance and The Emperor’s New Groove, burst with color and energy. This comparatively ugly effort prioritizes mayhem the likes of which you’d find in a Tom Cruise movie (whom Garfield even namedrops at one point).

Back to my point about the film potentially disengaging young viewers: nobody was having a good time in my theater. Three elderly women didn’t muster a single chuckle the entire time. Kids behind me were pin-drop quiet (for once), and the couple on a movie-date in the first row so seldom moved that I wondered if they got a head-start on an evening of cuddles. Towards the back, my girlfriend and I sat mostly silent, eager to get home to our cats and past The Garfield Movie, one of the worst films of the year.

NOTE: The Garfield Movie is now playing exclusively in theaters.

My review of Garfield: The Movie (2004)
My review of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

Voiced by: Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Hannah Waddingham, Nicholas Hoult, Cecily Strong, Harvey Guillén, Brett Goldstein, Bowen Yang, and Snoop Dogg. Directed by: Mark Dindal.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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