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Chris Pratt Voices Tiresome ‘Toon

Chris Pratt Voices Tiresome ‘Toon

As anyone familiar with cartoonist Jim Davis’ iconic feline character knows, Garfield doesn’t like to move around very much. He likes to eat, particularly pepperoni pizza and lasagna, and he likes to lie around and make sarcastic comments. In other words, he’s not a cat of action. And yet for some reason, the creators of the new animated film revolving around him think that what the audience really wants is to watch Garfield engage in Mission: Impossible-style, stunt-laden violent mayhem. It’s as if Charlie Brown was starring in the new James Bond movie.

And in case you think I’m stretching things to make a point, The Garfield Movie employs the MI theme during one scene and features that film series’ Ving Rhames as the voice of a bull who orchestrates the derring-do. After one particularly harrowing sequence, Garfield, voiced by Chris Pratt, comments, “In case you’re wondering, I do my own stunts. Me and Tom Cruise.”

The Garfield Movie

The Bottom Line

Purrfectly mediocre.

Release date: Friday, May 24
Cast: Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddington, Ving Rhames, Nicholas Hoult, Cecily Strong, Harvey Guillen, Brett Goldstein, Bowen Yang, Janelle James, Snoop Dogg
Director: Mark Dindal
Screenwriters: Paul A. Kaplan, Mark Torgove, David Reynolds

Rated PG,
1 hour 41 minutes

None of these meta references will be entertaining for the very young target audience, nor are they amusing for their adult chaperones. It’s indicative of the laziness and cynicism permeating this enterprise, which sacrifices the character’s subversive humor in favor of routine animated hijinks.

The film begins promisingly enough, with the opening moments featuring Garfield ordering his trademark lasagna, a much easier process these days thanks to food delivery apps. Garfield then addresses us directly, introducing his charming origin story in which he’s seemingly abandoned as a kitten by his father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson) and is rescued by his eventual owner Jon (Nicholas Hoult), who generously shares his meal at an Italian restaurant. The first few minutes have the feel of a classic Disney cartoon, enhanced by such clever touches as the pint-sized Garfield floating away in a literal river of his own tears when he thinks that Jon isn’t going to take him home.

This all happens before the opening credits, with the film shortly thereafter lapsing into uninspired action comedy when the now-grown Garfield and his canine sidekick Odie (Harvey Guillen) are catnapped and dognapped respectively. Garfield gets reunited with his errant dad, who gets them involved in an elaborate caper at a milk farm organized by the feline Jinx (Hannah Waddingham, who knows how to put this sort of material over) and her henchdogs Roland (Brett Goldstein, whose voice sounds cartoonish even in real life) and Nolan (Bowen Yang). Meanwhile, a distraught Jon attempts to contact an agency for lost pets and nearly goes insane from being put on hold. These are the jokes, folks.

It all plays as routinely as you’d expect, making the film directed by Mark Dindal (The Emperor’s New Groove, Chicken Little) feel much longer than it is, at least for anyone over the age of 10. The trio of screenwriters vainly attempt to throw things at the wall to see what sticks, including, at one point, onscreen graphics depicting dialogue from the screenplay followed by a weird lurch into film noir, complete with mock hard-boiled narration.

There are a few mildly funny moments, such as Garfield suddenly finding out he’s been wearing a collar and tag the whole time, hidden under his furry avoirdupois. But then comes another groaner, like the milk farm’s security officer, voiced by Cecily Strong, who’s named Marge and is a caricature of Frances McDormand’s Minnesota-accented character in Fargo. Really?

The rudimentary animation does the film no favors, nor does the lead vocal turn by Pratt, who strangely has become one of Hollywood’s go-to animation stars with Onward, The Lego Movie and its sequel and The Super Mario Bros. Movie. His colorless vocal work here pales in comparison with his predecessors Bill Murray, who voiced the character in the two live-action movies, and Lorenzo Music, who played it brilliantly for so many years on television. The strange result is a Garfield without attitude.  

Full credits

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Production: Alcon Entertainment, DNEG Animation, One Cool Group, Wayfarer Studios, Stage 6 Films
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Cast: Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Waddington, Ving Rhames, Nicholas Hoult, Cecily Strong, Harvey Guillen, Brett Goldstein, Bowen Yang, Janelle James, Snoop Dogg
Director: Mark Dindal
Screenwriters: Paul A. Kaplan, Mark Torgove, David Reynolds
Producers: John Cohen, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Steven P. Wegner, Craig Sost, Namit Malhotra
Executive producers: Jim Davis, Bridget McMeel, David Reynolds, Scott Parish, Carl Rogers, Tom Jacomb, Crosby Clyse, Chris Pflug, Simon Hedges Louise Koo, Steve Sarowitz, Justin Baldoni
Production designer: Pete Oswald
Editor: Mark Keefer
Composer: John Debney
Casting: Monika Mikkelsen

Rated PG,
1 hour 41 minutes

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