Year:  2024

Director:  Mark Dindal

Rated:  G

Release:  30 May 2024

Distributor: Sony

Running time: 101 minutes

Worth: $13.50
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(voices) Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames

It’s not worth the whole tray of lasagne, but audiences might still get their fill.

There doesn’t really need to be another feature-length Garfield film. While the previous two attempts (including the one that Bill Murray notoriously signed on for by mistake) lend plenty of credence to keeping everyone’s favourite tabby cat on a smaller scale, the bigger issue is simply of its very nature as an IP. As gag-a-day comic strips, or segmented animated shorts, his sardonic and lackadaisical attitude that makes him so popular fits. But once things creep past the hour mark, and by storytelling conventions forcing him to do stuff to make up the run-time, it goes against the entertainment value of a character who is defined by his shiftlessness.

And on this third go-around, the script by sitcom lifers Paul A. Kaplan and Mark Torgove along with The Emperor’s New Groove’s David Reynolds (with Groove’s director Mark Dindal also helming this production) is informed quite directly by the Mission: Impossible franchise. Garfield and Odie getting pulled into an action-spy heist at a dairy farm, the jarringly idealistic take on deception within more clandestine dealings, double- and even triple-crosses, Ving Rhames voicing the linchpin character of said heist, Tom Cruise getting name-dropped directly for doing all his own stunts; for as much as the Cruise Missile is heralded as the saviour of modern cinema as we know it, this is still a bit much.

However, much like the original Space Jam or any number of elements from Russell T. Davies’ recent return to Doctor Who, an inherently bad idea can still work if you do something with it, and to the film’s credit, there’s still a lot to like here. The animation from DNEG gets a lot of mileage out of the dichotomy of Garfield being physically thrown everywhere (along with quietly disarming moments during the flashback sequences) and strikes a good balance between Garfield’s comic book origins and somewhat realistic rendering of fur as per modern standards. Credit also for managing to get Odie to steal every scene he’s in without saying much of anything.

As for the characters who do speak, the cast is pretty good. ‘Animated film starring Chris Pratt’ may be something of a meme nowadays, and Sam Jackson playing his dad sounds like a bad SNL skit, but they work surprisingly well together, especially when the script digs into their respective issues with abandonment. Pratt nails the snarky overtones of the character, and Jackson actually manages to give a convincing character performance that goes beyond “hey, it’s Sam Jackson”. It’s more believable than it should be that these two are related and that they would get involved in the adventurous nonsense of the plot.

The Garfield Movie is rather unnecessary both as a feature film and as an attempted continuation of Jim Davis’ ethos, but credit to everyone involved for the effort they poured into making this work despite that. The nature of the beast as far as cinematic adaptations of shortform content excuses a lot of ills within the story structure, and while some moments end up dating the film quite specifically (something that could never be said of Davis’ own work), there’s genuine humour and heart behind it all that captures some of Garfield’s iconic mood. It’s not worth the whole tray of lasagne, but audiences might still get their fill.