review

The Garfield Movie review: Fundamental changes messes with the lore

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
The Garfield Movie is in cinemas on May 30.
The Garfield Movie is in cinemas on May 30. Credit: DNEG Animation/Sony Pictures

There are some fundamentals in life. Water is wet, fire is hot, and Garfield and Odie are not friends.

You don’t mess with the fundamentals. Yet, The Garfield Movie has decided that the decades-long antagonistic relationship between the lasagne-loving fat cat and his canine foil is not one of conflict but of camaraderie. What is happening with the world?!

The choice to make Garfield and Odie good mates (Garfield refers to Odie as his unpaid intern but there is no disdain nor contempt, and Odie helps Garfield with all his adventures) begs the question, who is this movie for?

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With its zany antics and simplistic but stuffed plot, The Garfield Movie is aimed squarely at the under-12s. It doesn’t really have that second layer for parents.

There are a couple of nods to the older crowd, including its obsession with Tom Cruise who is name-dropped along with the movie’s use of both the Mission Impossible and Top Gun theme songs. But the humour and themes are too surface-level to be working on a deeper level.

The Garfield Movie is in cinemas on May 30.
They’re not meant to be friends. Credit: DNEG Animation/Sony Pictures

But kids have no prior connection to the Garfield comics which were first published in the late 1970s, nor would they have watched the 1980s and 1990s cartoons. To them, Garfield is, by this movie’s characterisation, a slightly wry cat with a comically unhealthy caloric intake and daddy issues.

Are Garfield and Odie friends because they don’t want to teach the next generation that cats and dogs are in conflict? Or that anyone living under the same roof should have beef? With each other that is, not layered between lasagne sheets.

That anyone is even making a Garfield movie suggests it’s trying to appeal cross-generationally but on this ambition, it’s a failure.

You don’t have to be a purist to not be down with these changes, which also includes that Garfield is not particularly lazy. Anyone who declares he does his own stunts (like Tom Cruise!) is not one for the supine life.

At least he’s still a total glutton. Between Garfield and last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remake, pepperoni pizza still reigns supreme.

The Garfield Movie is in cinemas on May 30.
Garfield meets his estranged dad. Credit: DNEG Animation/Sony Pictures

The story involves Garfield (Chris Pratt) and Odie (Harvey Guillen) being kidnapped by a villainous cat (Hannah Waddingham) and her sidekicks (Brett Goldstein and Bowen Yang) in a revenge plot to get back at Garfield’s estranged dad (Samuel L. Jackson).

There’s also a lovelorn bull (Ving Rhames) and a dairy farm whose security guard Marge (Cecily Strong) is a riff on Frances McDormand’s Fargo character.

There’s a lot going on but as a kids movie, Garfield ticks some requisite boxes.

It has talking animals, a madcap caper and a fast-moving story. And the voice performances are fine, even though Pratt’s earnest quippiness doesn’t have the drollness you want from Garfield. At least he’s more suited to this than Mario.

But for parents hoping for a bit of nostalgia, you may want to just drop the kids off at the cinema and then sit in the car and fire up the old Garfield cartoons on YouTube.

Rating: 2/5

Garfield is in cinemas from Thursday, May 30

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