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The Garfield Movie review – we're not feline the tubby orange tabby's full CGI makeover

This fully computer-generated Garfield film has been primped, preened and puffed out with high- profile voices so it can compete at the multiplex in 2024 

Garfield in The Garfield Movie

High CGI values may not save this version of Garfield, voiced by Chris Pratt, from critical cat-astrophe. Image: © 2023 Project G Productions, LLC

When was the last time you consciously thought about Garfield, the heroically lazy cartoon cat for
longer than a split second? For me it was in 2012 when Andrew Garfield was starring in blockbuster reboot The Amazing Spider-Man

My hot take was telling people Garfield had been cast as the nimble wall-crawler because the producers assumed he already had suction pads on his hands and feet. Judging by the lukewarm reaction to that excellent joke, it felt like Garfield’s cultural chokehold – symbolised by those grinning soft toys that clung to the back window of many a Vauxhall Cavalier – was slipping.

But if Garfield (the cat, not the Oscar-nominated actor) is famous for anything it is his prodigious appetite for carb-heavy foods. So after two slapstick-heavy live-action movies in the mid-2000s – where an unsettling computer-generated Garfield voiced by Bill Murray interacted with mugging humans – the self-satisfied moggy has now returned for another helping in The Garfield Movie.

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The previous two films were a cheerfully clumsy mish-mash; this time round everything feels like it has been optimised to achieve maximum impact, right down to that newly definitive title. Perhaps there were some executive nerves when adapting a cartoon strip that has barely changed since creator Jim Davis first secured newspaper syndication for it in 1978. 

This fully computer-generated Garfield film has been primped, preened and puffed out with high-
profile voices so it can compete at the multiplex in 2024. 

While this incarnation of the tubby orange tabby sounds like Chris Pratt rather than Murray, he still loves lasagne, hates Mondays and prides himself on being an elite-level loafer. Garfield’s leisurely mastery of his domestic domain extends to breaking the fourth wall while his drippy owner Jon (voiced by Nicholas Hoult) and puppyish sidekick Odie cater to his sultan-like levels of selfishness.

Perhaps wisely The Garfield Movie unmoors its lead from his mollycoddled life by quickly kidnapping him away from it. It is all because of the wayward father who abandoned him as a kitten five years ago. 

The square-shouldered, unkempt Vic is a disreputable but amiable crook voiced by Samuel L Jackson, and much is made of the difference between dad’s streetwise outdoor cat life and Garfield’s gilded indoor cage of near-constant pizza delivery.

Vic is in serious hock to a vengeful Persian cat crime boss named Jinx (Hannah Waddingham) whose lavish necklace of mood rings telegraphs her volcanic temper. To get out from under her paw, Vic and his reluctant sidekicks Garfield and Odie must rob a far-off milk farm whose cutesy rustic exterior disguises a grim industrial operation of automated conveyer belts and aggressive security systems.

Their inside man is an old bull who has been put out to pasture nearby. This beefy beast is voiced by Mission: Impossible mainstay Ving Rhames, so of course there is an elaborate planning briefing before the milk heist is executed. 

The soulful bull also has a wise plan to help Vic and Garfield get over the resentments that have built up over the past five years. By the time the robbery is in full antic swing, the father and son seem to be achieving some sort of belated rapprochement. 

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But mature life lessons being learned amid an Aardman-lite factory heist also feels like we have wandered far away from whatever made Garfield so globally popular in the first place.

At least the stylised aesthetic is sharp enough to evoke the familiar clean lines and huge eyes of Davis’s original artwork but rubbery enough to allow the action sequences to crank up to literally cartoonish levels, including a climactic high-speed train showdown over a deep Roadrunner-style canyon. There is also a cameo from Snoop Dogg voicing a street cat, which is a good joke. 

But at no point does anything truly spark to life. I love a dumbass Despicable Me movie or an emotionally wrenching Pixar film. But despite some thinking out of the box, The Garfield Movie does not make a particularly convincing case for its existence. Perhaps Garfield should stick to his more natural habitats, like appearing in a classic three-panel comic strip or being shonkily printed onto a cheap grey sweatshirt you foolishly consider buying while backpacking.

The Garfield Movie is in cinemas from 24 May.

Graeme Virtue is a film and TV critic.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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