U.S. Release Date: June 11, 2004
Distributor: Fox
Director: Peter Hewitt
Writer: Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow
Producer: John Davis
Composer: Christophe Beck
Cast: Bill Murray (Voice), Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt
Running Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (for brief mild language)

Lazy Cat, Breezy Movie
by Lane Ford

From the pen of illustrator Jim Davis to the vision of producer John Davis comes Garfield: The Movie—and it takes the lasagna. Faithful enough to the spirit and wit of the comic strip, the television cartoon, the endless permutations of merchandizing as to not offend the fans, notwithstanding, this movie stands on its own four legs—and purrs.

The plot finds Garfield, the now-iconic, gluttonous, curmudgeonly feline, where we have found him for years: in bed beside Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer) when the alarm clock rings. It is life as usual for Garfield—scamming for food, roaming the cul de sac and tossing sly witticisms about with a swish of the tail—until his lovely veterinarian (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) introduces Odie the Dog into the Arbuckle household. As Garfield contrives to renew his rule of the roost, Odie is delivered into the clutches of a dubious television host. Garfield must then launch an uncharacteristic quest to save the day in the name of friendship.

Okay, so the plot is a bit formulaic. It's unclear why Garfield takes a turn for heroism, except through the well-worn premise that at the bottom of every curmudgeon there is a big-hearted softy. The tryst between Arbuckle and his veterinarian adds up to nothing but an "insert female here" device—or an excuse to see Jennifer Love Hewitt run in a mini-skirt—that we could have done without. But these are cursory objections for light fare; no matter how hokey, it works.

Bill Murray, whose comedic talents have achieved iconic status of their own, is priceless as the voice of Garfield. A comic strip and a comic are rarely so deliciously matched—and here, form a parched-dry monument to sarcasm. Meyer is a picture-perfect Jon Arbuckle, the hapless, witless, not-so-ladies-man. The live-action star is actually Tyler the dog in the role of Odie, who's got more moves than Will Smith at his jiggiest and a more woe begotten stare than Jennifer Love Hewitt at an acting class.

The mixture of live action and animation in this movie is surprisingly seamless. The visual palette is clear and bright and sunny; none of the effects are distracting. Director Peter Hewitt (The Borrowers) has done well in not billing the technology above the material, but in using it to his subtle advantage.

While Garfield appeals to our lazier halves, you do want to live in his cul de sac for an hour or two. In fact, the movie leaves you wanting more, perhaps even (go ahead and groan) a sequel.

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