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Review: 'The Garfield Movie' (2024)

Edited by Sonious
Your rating: None Average: 2 (3 votes)

thegarfieldmovie.jpgBefore we even begin, what is some of y'all's problem with Chris Pratt as a voice actor?

He's a fine actor who can do comedy sidekick (his breakout role in the sitcom Parks and Recreation), character actor in supporting role (he had small but important roles in Best Picture nominees three years in row with Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty and Her), full on movie star (he's great in Guardians of the Galaxy and, remember, I liked Jurassic World), and, yes, voice actor (The Lego Movie). And by all accounts he's a nice guy people like working with, and that does matter. He's hardly the only guy who does a lot of voice work, either. Since theaters like to play ten trailers before a movie before, I was able to notice a lack of Chris Pratt (or another personal favorite who people like to complain about online, Awkwafina), but not Keegan-Michael Key, who is way more ubiquitous as Pratt in voice work, and is often even in the same movie as both Pratt and Awkwafina, but who never gets this sort of backlash when cast. And, not to be too mean to Key, who I mostly like, but I've already noted Pratt is actually a pretty versatile actor and Awkwafina has a Golden Globe, while Key is the half of Key & Peele that is starting to look like he got carried by the other half. I'm sure he'll actually be great as Bumblebee, though.

But, to bring the movie I'm supposed to be reviewing into the picture, I really do not get why people were upset Chris Pratt was cast as Garfield, because, come on, it's freaking Garfield. Bill Murray voiced the role in 2004, and Murray went on to bash the movie in his cameo playing himself in 2009's Zombieland, picking it as his life's greatest regret. On the basis of that, if you don't like Chris Pratt, you should be thrilled he got the role! Garfield's creator, Jim Davis, has always been a pretty open about the commercial aspirations of the character. I mean, kind of like Keegan-Michael Key, I like the character fine, but he barely stands out as a comic strip and Saturday morning cartoon star, mediums that are known for producing mostly safe, crowd-pleasing pablum. And that's basically this movie.

Well, anyway, Garfield is an orange cat who lives with Jon Arbuckle (voiced by Nicholas Hoult) and his fellow pet, a dog named Odie (who is basically mute, but whose untranslated barks are voiced by Harvey Guillén), who serves as Garfield's hyper-competent sidekick in this version. Garfield is very lazy, eats a lot but especially likes lasagna, and for some reason hates Mondays. These are staples of the strip, and the movie quickly acknowledges and salutes these character quirks at the beginning before moving on to its actual story.

This involves Garfield's outdoor cat father, Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), who is the target of a revenge plot by Jinx (voiced by Hannah Waddingham), another cat that blames Vic for getting her sent to the pound. She sends her pair of henchdogs, consisting of Roland (voiced by Brett Goldstein), a shar pei with massive amounts of excess skin, and Nolan (voiced by Bowen Yang), a small, neurotic dog, to kidnap Garfield, believing Vic does actually care about his son, even though Garfield himself is convinced he does not.

Jinx sends them on an impossible heist (what is it with orange cartoon cats and heist parodies?) to steal milk from a corporate dairy farm, the idea being, if they fail and are sent to pound (or worse), well, vengeance is served, and if they succeed, she gets a lot of free milk and also she'll just betray Vic anyway. At the dairy, Garfield and friends team up with the dairy's mascot, a bull let out to pasture named Otto (voiced by Ving Rhames), who is seeking to free the other dairy mascot, cow Ethel, the love of his life. They run afoul of a security guard, Marge Malone (voiced by Cecily Strong), who seems really over-qualified to be guarding dairy products.

The relationship between Garfield and his estranged father is the main emotional through-line of the movie. It mostly works, and honestly feels like more than effort was put into it than perhaps Garfield deserves. But, if you're going to hire Samuel L. Jackson and, yes, Chris Pratt for the roles, you can give them a bit more to do than just gags. The movie does have plenty of those, of course. There is a lot of slapstick humor, but Garfield has always been a more dialogue driven character. And I did find myself laughing at a lot of Pratt's lines. Garfield was also always a bit meta, even before it was cool, and Garfield's continual asides to the audience were a highlight.

The animation is fine, and the look achieved does seem to be a close approximation of Davis's style in 3D. However, that means Davis's character design should be taken into account, which is in the tradition of cartoon animals that don't actually look like the animals represented very much. Did you know Odie was a beagle? Because I sure didn't until I looked it up.

The movie was directed by Mark Dindal, who directed the furry cult movie Cats Don't Dance and then two movies for Disney: the really great The Emperor's New Groove and the really unfortunate Chicken Little. The Garfield Movie doesn't come anywhere near Dindal's traditionally animated movies, but it is nowhere near the disaster that was Chicken Little. I don't think this will go down as Chris Pratt's greatest regret, anyway.

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