Garfield is awful. There really is no other way to say it. Expanding a comic strip into a movie is difficult enough, and apparently moving Jim Davis' strip about a fat lazy cat onto the screen was too much. First, Davis' strip hasn't been that funny in a while. The comic strip Garfield is turning into something of a jerk, and this is coming through in the film. Second, for many people, the voice of Garfield will always belong to the late Lorenzo Music. Music had one of the most unique voices in cartoons. His voice was smooth yet had the ability to come off as smug with sounding arrogant. Replacing him is the great Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Coffee and Cigarettes), who also has the ability to sound resigned at the very stupidity of the world. Murray is great, but as Garfield, he is no Music. If anything, he is the only reason to watch this adaptation.

The other human actors are so lifeless they may as well be cartoons. Breckin Meyer (Pinocchio, Kate & Leopold) is Jon Arbuckle, and Jennifer Love Hewitt (The Tuxedo, Heartbreakers) is Liz, the hot veterinarian. Meyer and Hewitt are not known for their acting abilities. Hewitt is usually bad, and Meyer is boring at best. This doesn't pose well, and leaves only the computer animated Garfield as something to pay attention to. He does look impressive, but again, it takes more than powerful computer graphics to make a film work. Although Garfield's fur looks incredibly life-like, this cannot hide the fact that what little story there is, by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (Cheaper by the Dozen, Goodbye Lover) takes a long time to get moving after an excruciating slow start. Director Peter Hewitt (Thunderpants, The Borrowers) made the decision to use on a computer animated Garfield. This means that every other animal is real, with the help of some CGI to move their lips.

This is extremely distracting. Why animate only Garfield? Especially when everybody knows what Odie looks like. And the Odie here doesn't look like Odie at all. Heck, Nermal doesn't even look the same. Pookie does, but how hard can that be? Even Meyer pulls off a decent Jon. Next, there is something really wrong about watching Garfield constantly kick Odie. Watching cartoon animals hit each other is funny. Watching a cartoon animal hit a real dog is creepy. Sure, the dog isn't really hurt, but there is still something profoundly wrong with this. Odie is the constant subject of abuse at the hands of Garfield, because of Garfield's jealousy.

See, Jon has a crush on Liz, and accepted Odie partially to spend more time with him. Odie has the ability to dance on his hind legs, which gets the notice of Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky, Frankie and Johnny are Married, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!), a local television personality. He has dreams of making it big, and sees Odie as the means to do so. Garfield kicks Odie out of the house, then Happy kidnaps him. Soon, Jon is distraught, and eventually Garfield realizes how wrong and mean he was, and decides to go and rescue Odie. Garfield passes quickly enough that little children will probably be amused. And they will laugh at the big fat orange cat on screen just because it is there. If only they knew better.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 25 minutes, Rated PG for brief mild language.

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