Yay Or Nay: The Garfield Movie

In the year 2024, it probably isn’t a stretch to say that you’ve heard of Garfield

You’ve seen that lazy, Monday-hating orange cat on the edges of pop culture whether you’ve wanted to or not. He is as inescapable as the sun. His visage has been patterned on t-shirts and made into fluffy slippers, pencil boxes, and tote bags. Kids probably own boxers with his face on them. If you’re anything like us then you learnt about lasagna from him well before you ever had the chance to eat one yourself. This dude was introducing kids around the world to types of pasta! What other character can claim that kind of influence?

The cat’s a big deal, is what we’re saying. You know him. We know him.

What you may not know, however, is that this year, on the 24th of May, Columbia Pictures and Alcon Entertainment unleashed upon the world a whole-ass feature film based on the omnipresent feline. The Garfield Movie was animated by the studio DNEG Animation. It was written without input from original Garfield creator Jim Davis, directed by Mark Dindal, and stars a surprisingly high-profile scattering of actors, which includes Samuel L. Jackson of all people.

It’s doing alright at the box office. In all likelihood, it will soon pass into non-relevance like dozens of other kid’s movies before it. If you’ve heard anything at all about the movie, it’s probably that Chris Pratt– yes, the one of Marvel and Mario fame– is the one who did the voice acting for Garfield.

Without casting judgement on that… choice, we here at Echo Media now seek to answer a very simple question– Should you watch the Garfield Movie?

Yay, or Nay?

Nay (by Ryan)

Look. I didn’t wanna come on here just to hate on a movie that isn’t causing anyone any harm. In a perfect world, I would’ve watched this movie and walked out of the theatre with a big smile on my face and joy in my heart. I love going to the movies! I’m a hard guy to disappoint when it comes to the theatrical experience. If you’ve got me in that seat, in the dark, in front of that big screen, you barely have to do anything to make sure I have a good time. If the pictures move and the sound is loud and the popcorn is flavourful, then there’s a pretty high chance that I’ll come out feeling positive about the movie I just watched. 

But with this film… well… 

I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.

The reason for this is pretty simple: this Garfield Movie is not a Garfield Movie. Now, I can already hear your exclamation of confusion. Hold on a second, let me explain.

When I think about Garfield, I think about lasagna, and Mondays, and Garfield’s humorous hedonism. He’s a lazy cat who spends his days napping and eating lots of food that cats shouldn’t be able to eat. He has an owner named Jon Arbuckle whose romantic failures are frequently a source of comedy. Jon is a semi-successful cartoonist, and he frequently bickers with his cat, which makes him look crazy because Garfield talks in thought bubbles. Garfield also shares the household with Jon’s other pet, Odie, a non-speaking beagle who’s eager and enthusiastic about everything. These three characters get into a bunch of hijinks together, most of which are mundane, relatable. 

The famous “I hate Mondays” joke is a standout one, one which represents a lot of the appeal of Garfield to me. He doesn’t get into outlandish adventures or engage in constant slapstick. He’s a lazy creature who wishes he could spend his days doing nothing but eating and sleeping. Who among us hasn’t felt that way at some point in our lives? Garfield is like us! He’s an icon for the people.

The Chris Pratt Garfield of this film is not the Garfield I just talked about.

Oh, sure, he’s still a lazy orange cat who lives with his owner and a dog named Odie. He still eats a bunch and he still decries Mondays. If I were watching the movie with a checklist of these classic Garfieldian attributes, I’d find them all ticked within the first 20 minutes of the movie. 

The thing is, all of these things are only present in the first twenty minutes of the movie. I’m not going to give a detailed plot summary here, but please, believe me when I say that the actual plot of this movie has absolutely nothing to do with all the elements I just talked about. Jon Arbuckle, who’s present in probably 40-50% of all Garfield comic strips, has maybe 10 minutes of total screen time in this 100-minute film.

The film’s plot properly begins– after a brief montage containing all the classic checklist elements I mentioned earlier– when two burly dog characters straight up kidnap Garfield and Odie from Jon’s house. The main setting of the comic is then abandoned as Garfield and Odie are roped into an adventurous heist, which involves Garfield’s long-lost father– played by Samuel L. Jackson– and a villainous pink cat. The new characters I just mentioned aren’t in the original comic at all, by the way. Not the dogs, not the cat, and certainly not Garfield’s DAD. 

This doesn’t have to be an issue, of course. Plenty of film adaptations have to cut characters or create new ones from whole cloth in order to facilitate the story the adapters want to tell. In this case, the writers of this movie wanted it to be about cat crime syndicates and deadbeat dads, and so they created characters to make it happen. Sure, fine. 

As an adaptation, though, the Garfield Movie seems to have zero interest in either delivering on the stuff you’d expect to see from a Garfield story, or in exploring Garfield as an iconic character who’s beloved worldwide. Why is this movie even about Garfield? was the thought that kept popping up in my head as scene after scene of cats committing crimes unfolded before me. The creators of the movie clearly knew they were making a movie about Garfield. Why does it not resemble the comic strip at all then? 

I may have given the impression thus far that I’m some kind of Garfield super-fan. I promise you I’m not. I just like the guy well enough. I shudder to imagine what the actual Garfield super-fans think about this thing.

To give one bit of well-earned praise, I will say that Odie is the best character in the movie. He was done justice where everyone else wasn’t. Odie fans, you’ll eat good with this movie. I salute you all.

One last thing I want to say– the core reason I’m let down by this film, really– is that The Garfield Movie had the potential to be so much more. 

Because it’s not like Garfield the comic strip should’ve been impossible to adapt into a movie. In recent years, we’ve seen movies about Legos and Barbie, for crying out loud! It is possible to take a TOY and make a compelling, interesting story out of it while also technically being a giant commercial. Just for fun, let’s compare and contrast the Garfield Movie with 2014’s Lego Movie and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

All of these films are similar in the fact that they all make up a bunch of new characters to fit the specific stories they’re going for. Garfield has its new dad, The Lego Movie has, well, its entire core cast of characters, and Barbie has Gloria. 

All of these films are also interested in more than fulfilling fan expectations. There are fun easter eggs and jokes for fans of both Lego and Barbie in their respective movies, but they, along with Garfield 2024, are ultimately stories that’re distinct from the IP that spawned them.

The crucial aspect that separates The Lego Movie and Barbie from The Garfield Movie is that the former two were still channelling the spirit of the property they were adapting, or else had something to say about it. 

The Lego Movie is about a Chosen One who goes on a big quest to defeat a big bad guy, but it’s also about the ideals of Lego– about fostering creativity and connection with your family through fiddling with a bunch of plastic bricks. Barbie works as a fun Summer-y comedy, but it’s also about Barbie’s position in our real world as a global icon for girls to look up to. Near the end it basically becomes a soft introduction to feminism. These movies were doing something with the fact that they were based on the things they were based on. Eight-year old me was in tears by the end of the Lego Movie! It clearly functioned as more than a big commercial.

The Garfield Movie, like other unambitious film adaptations, didn’t really want to be anything more than a big commercial. Unfortunately, it isn’t very good at being that, either. Kids visiting the comic strip for the first time after watching the movie are going to be flabbergasted at what Garfield is actually about. 

As I said at the start of this incredibly messy review, I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed. This movie could’ve been more than it was.

Yay (By Sereen)

So, I’ll be honest, there really isn’t much for this segment. I’m well aware that writing this may diminish whatever arguments I have, but I’d rather be transparent than dishonest. 

That being said, that doesn’t mean that this movie doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. Acting like it does would be doing a disservice to both it and other far worse movies. 

Let’s start with the obvious— the stuff that’s literally in your face: the animation. Now, of course, being a film made by several major production companies, there is a certain quality that audiences would expect. This movie in particular however, goes the extra mile by mimicking the artstyle of the comic strips. It’s not a perfect one-to-one recreation by any means, since some liberties had to be taken for the sake of the animation process, but the care the modellers took into replicating the comics’ style is not one to be discounted. 

Some critiqued the animation of this movie for being less detailed than, say, The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Now, budget aside, I’d actually argue that the more simplistic style of this movie’s animation does it more of a service than anything else. Think about it, what suits a character like Garfield more? A flashy, detailed style, or one that adheres to the simple nature of the comics? Personally, I’d go with the latter. For Garfield, this movie doesn’t have to be anything more. 

That’s the thing about this movie. It doesn’t try to be more than it has to be. Does that make it unambitious? Yes. But that doesn’t make it inherently bad. In fact, many would argue that a movie that knows what it is is better than a movie that tries to be something it’s not. What this movie is, is a fun, brightly coloured kids film. And yes, a kids film can be entertaining to adults, but that doesn’t mean every children’s animated movie should keep the parents in mind. 

Since we’ve talked about the animation, let’s move on to something just as important: the voice acting. I’m well aware that this movie’s inclusion of Chris Pratt is… strange to put it lightly, but he admittedly doesn’t do a bad job. Is it jarring? Yes. But it’s certainly not abhorrent by any means. But even if you disagree, that doesn’t mean the other voice actors of this film should immediately be discredited just because of his presence. Nicholas Hoult, for example did phenomenally as Jon Arbuckle, despite the little screen time he got; his voice was near unrecognisable, as many would agree. And who could forget Samuel L. Jackson as Vic, Garfield’s biological father? Certainly not a casting that I would’ve gone with, when asked who I would envision as the voice of this character, but I think we can all agree that he did a fantastic job, as he always does.

All in all, the Garfield movie, while not being the most imaginative piece of work, is decidedly not the complete dumpster fire that many critics claim it is. 

Written by: Ryan and Sereen

Edited by: Merissa

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