starring Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Murray
screenplay by Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow, based on the Jim Davis comic strip
directed by Peter Hewitt
by Walter Chaw The sell-by date on a big-screen version of Jim Davis's flyblown syndicated comic strip-cum-merchandising empire "Garfield" expired at least twenty years ago, explaining in part why this Bill Murray-voiced abomination looks and acts so much like a giant hunk of rotten meat. It's corpse-soft, shambling along without much direction from its jellied brain, instantly alienating children with its snarky in-jokes about the cat's once-ubiquitous advertising appeal and pissing off adults with its die-cast dedication to being as worthless as possible. Parcelled off in little segments that approximate the rat-a-tat texture and length of the Sunday funnies but without the colour and for about seventeen times the price and potential headache, Garfield is trying so hard that it transfers its strain to anyone unfortunate enough to have gotten to the theatre after their first three choices were already sold-out.
There is a whiff of the resigned to Garfield, a project in the pipes for so long that its final creation is more a result of just getting it over with than any hint of inspiration or passion. Breckin Meyer plays Garfield's beleaguered milquetoast of an owner Jon with the kind of embarrassment generally reserved for Patrick Stewart's attempts to crack the big screen, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, as love-interest Liz, perfects her skill for conjuring and banishing a toothy smile for every word in a sentence. Since she wears more teeny dresses than any veterinarian on the job probably should, the distracting fact of CGI Garfield's (the sole all-computer element in the film, harking back to the triumph of Jar Jar Binks) complete lack of anus and genitalia is suddenly understandable--if my dog's vet dressed like Liz, I'd go in for a lot of bizarre elective surgery, too. The flick inspires peculiar skylarks, the moment or two a Bill Murray ad lib scores also the moment or two where Murray is at his most surreal: a wandering mind only natural, it's also the only possible defense. Originally published: June 11, 2004.