I’ve finally found a film where the source material that it is based on is one that I know. “Garfield” is a comic series that I’m actually quite fond of, or at least, I was at one point in my life. Finally seeing a film adaptation of “Garfield” feels weird. It also seems like it came at the wrong time. Seriously, back in 2004, did anyone really care about “Garfield” anymore? I know that my friends at the time didn’t.
So, luckily for them, if they watched Garfield: The Movie, they wouldn’t notice all of the changes from the comic strip. Unfortunately for me, I did notice them. Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) actually has affection for Jon (Breckin Meyer) right off the bat. Nermal is no longer a small kitty, but is instead a fully grown cat. Garfield has been changed as well, retaining his rather large physique, but changing in personality.
Garfield is no longer a lazy cat, but instead has the energy to stage impromptu dance contests, walk all the way down to the city, and is also seemingly not impaired by his size at all. But you know what? That’s fine. The film is separate from the comic strip; it’s creating its own canon, its own universe, and it will abide by those rules. I can overlook these deviations, and I will look at and judge the film by its own merits, as well as take into consideration its target audience.
That target audience is not me, or at least, not me now. It’s a film created for, and meant to be enjoyed almost exclusively by, children, and younger children at that. However, I think that it actually can be enjoyed by older audiences as well, as it actually wasn’t all that bad a film–deviating from the comics aside.
The film opens, and focuses on for a large amount of its runtime, with Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) and Jon hanging out around their house. It’s at these moments, where we get to learn about the characters and why we should care about them. There actually isn’t much conflict until after half way through the film, which means we get plenty of time to get to know our characters.
Of course, people who are familiar with the comic series will already know these characters, so this brings up the question as to whether or not the large amount of character development is required. Well, the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”, and only given the target audience.
See, the people who this film is for, (people of an age lower than, say, 12), likely don’t have an extensive knowledge of Garfield. They might not have read the newspaper often, if at all, and they may not have had any interest in the comics section. This is the belief that I believe the filmmakers of this film had, and why they chose to give us so much time with the characters before anything important happened.
Eventually, the plot does get going when Odie, (who is given to Jon by Liz), gets captured by Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky). Apparently Odie is a special dog, and Chapman wants to take him and make him famous as a show dog. The rest of the film focuses on Garfield’s attempt to rescue Odie, as well as Jon and Liz’s attempts to find both Garfield and Odie.
That is the basic plot of Garfield: The Movie. Yes, it is fairly basic, but it was likely kept that way in order to not confuse its target audience. As well, the plot actually is okay. It’s not spectacular, but it does its job in making you keep watching. There aren’t many twists or turns in the story, but it’s solid and if you can accept talking cats, dogs and mice, then it’ll keep you entertained enough.
I bet that directing a film that primarily features animals is something that would be difficult. That’s probably why director Peter Hewitt decided to make Garfield completely CGI. Or maybe that was just because they couldn’t get a fat enough cat that could still be as agile as Garfield needs to be for the stunts he pulls within the film.
Why Garfield is completely CGI is ultimately irrelevant, and instead what should be looked at is how well the CGI is. Well, it isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. Garfield’s animations are well-done, but he doesn’t look like he really belongs in the real world. Bill Murray’s voice acting does give him a certain charm though, making the character appealing to everyone, not just the young ones.
If there is one thing that the filmmakers did right, it was capture the personality of Garfield. Even though physically he might not be right, Garfield is still the smug, yet lovable character that fans of the comic strip love. The movie might not get everything, or even most things from comic right, but it nailed that aspect. The plot of the film is basic, and there is certainly a childish tone throughout, but it isn’t a film to be enjoyed strictly by children, but instead, one that is potentially charming to all audiences, young or old.