Review: ‘The Garfield Movie,’ starring the voices of Chris Pratt and Samuel L. Jackson

May 19, 2024

by Carla Hay

Garfield (voiced by by Chris Pratt) in “The Garfield Movie” (Image courtesy of DNEG Animation/Columbia Pictures)

“The Garfield Movie”

Directed by Mark Dindal

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the animated film “The Garfield Movie” (based on the “Garfield” comic strip) features a cast of talking animals and some humans.

Culture Clash: Mischievous cat Garfield and his dog sidekick Odie team up with Garfield’s long-lost father Vic for to steal a large quantity of milk from a tourist farm. 

Culture Audience: “The Garfield Movie” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Garfield” franchise, fairly entertaining animated films where the main characters are talking animals.

Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), Garfield (voiced by by Chris Pratt), Odie and Otto (voiced by Ving Rhames) in “The Garfield Movie” (Image courtesy of DNEG Animation/Columbia Pictures)

“The Garfield Movie” isn’t outstanding, but it’s amusing enough for viewers who want a lightweight film about mischievous talking animals in an uncomplicated adventure story. The movie avoids being overstuffed and has some endearing sentimentality. Some viewers might be disappointed that the movie doesn’t have more interactions between humans and animals, but in the context of this particular plot for this animals, it’s better that most of the animal interactions don’t involve human interference.

Directed by Mark Dindal, “The Garfield Movie” was written by Paul A. Kaplan, Mark Torgove and David Reynolds. The “Garfield” franchise is based on the “Garfield” comic strip created by Jim Davis and launched in 1978. Garfield is a fun-loving and talkative orange tabby cat who can be mischievous. In this movie, he finds he reluctantly goes on a heist to help his long-lost father and finds out certain things that affect his life in a profound way. People do not need to be familiar with anything in the “Garfield” franchise before seeing this movie.

“The Garfield Movie” (which takes place in an unnamed U.S. city) begins by showing Garfield (voiced by Chris Pratt) at home and using a phone app to ordering food for delivery (including pizza and lasagna) from Mama Leoni’s, his favorite Italian restaurant. Garfield’s best friend/sidekick is a goofy beagle named Odie (voiced by Harvey Guillén), who does not talk but makes various noises. Garfield and Odie live with their human owner Jon Arbuckle (voiced by Nicholas Hoult), an amiable bachelor who adopted Garfield when Garfield was a kitten.

Garfield explains his backstory that is shown in a flashback. When Garfield was a kitten, his single father Vic (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) took care of Garfield. Garfield’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the movie. One rainy night, Vic told Garfield to wait for him in an alley, where Garfield was put in an open wooden enclosure to shield him from the rainy weather.

Vic promised that he would come back, but Garfield waited for an unnamed period of time, and didn’t see Vic come back. Feeling lost and hungry, Garfield wandered over to Mama Leoni’s, where he looked through a window and saw Jon at a table by himself. The next thing Jon knew, he saw a cute and hungry kitten at his table, with the kitten wanting to eat the pizza that Jon had ordered. Jon hid the kitten at the table and eventually smuggled the kitten outside.

At first, Jon wasn’t going to take Garfield home because, at the time, Jon lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets. But he was so charmed by Garfield, he took Garfield with him. Garfield says in a voiceover that he was the one who convinced Jon to move from the apartment to the house where they currently live. Eventually, Odie became part of the family.

In the present day, Garfield and Odie get kidnapped and find out that their captor is a fluffy white cat named Jinx (voiced by Hannah Waddingham), a diva-like feline who has two dogs as her main cronies: a Whippet named Nolan (voiced by Bowen Yang) and a Shar-Pei named Roland (voiced by Brett Goldstein), who do whatever Jinx tells them to do.

Jinx tells her story to Garfield and Odie about why she kidnapped them. Several years ago, Jinx immigrated from “a small town outside of London” to America to become a famous entertainer. She failed in that dream. A brief flashback shows that she bombed as a tuba player in a contest called Amerca’s Top Feline.

Feeling discouraged, Jinx befriended a bunch of other outcast and misfit cats, including Vic. One day, Jinx got trapped by animal control officers and spent four years, two months and seven days at an animal shelter, which she calls a “prison.” Jinx is bitter that her other stray cat friends, including Vic, were not captured and didn’t help her when she was captured and sent to the shelter.

For revenge, Jinx kidnapped Garfield and Odie, knowing that Vic would track them down. (It’s explained later in the movie how Vic would know where Garfield is.) When Vic comes to the rescue, Jinx tells them that something terrible will happen unless Vic can steal quart of milk from a place called Lactose Farms, for every day that she was in “prison.” She gives a deadline of 72 hours to commit this heist.

Vic convinces a reluctant Garfield to help him with this heist. Odie is along for the ride too. When they get to Lactose Farms, it isn’t the small “mom and pop” business that Vic remembers. It’s now a corporate-owned popular tourist attraction with a petting zoo and a complex layout to get to the milk supply.

While at Lactose Farms, these three would-be thieves meet a bull named Otto (voiced by Ving Rhames), who was put out to pasture when Lactose Farms was sold to the corporation. This new ownership also resulted in Otto being separated from his longtime love: a cow named Edith (voiced by Alicia Grace Turrell), who is currently part of the petting zoo. Otto agrees to help Vic, Garfield and Odie with this heist (since he’s very knowledgeable of the layout of Lactose Farms) on the condition that they free Edith so that Otto can run away with her.

Otto leads much of the planning for this heist, which will be an undercover operation. He gives code names for the three would-be thieves. Vic is Majestic Bullfrog. Odie is Clever and Curious Chipmunk. Garfield is Roadkill. Naturally, Garfield dislikes his code name.

There’s more to the movie’s story that just the hijinks that ensue for this heist. Garfield has a lot of complicated emotions about the sudden appearance of his absent father Vic. It leads to parts of the movie that cover topics such as childhood trauma over abandonment in a mostly sensitive and touching way.

Meanwhile, Jon frantically searches for Garfield and Odie in amusing segments that poke fun at how call centers frequently put people on hold and give impersonal service that isn’t helpful. A few supporting characters have slightly amusing roles, such as Lactose Farms security chief Marge Malone (voiced by Cecily Strong), who is shrill and aggressive. Making cameo appearances are two stray cats named Maurice (voiced by Snoop Dogg) and Olivia (voiced by Janelle James), who encounter Garfield and Odie.

“The Garfield Movie” has some moments where the pacing drags, but the film mostly has a brisk pace and competently engaging animation. The charismatic voice cast performances go a long way in maintaining viewer interest, since the personalities of the main characters are the driving force of this simple story. This is a very male-centric movie, where the female characters with the most screen time are either antagonists (Jinx and Marge) or need to be rescued (Edith).

The movie’s end credits have social media clips of cat videos, which are cute but look out-of-place in this animated film, even though there’s a running gag that Garfield likes to watch cat videos on the fictional streaming service Catflix. “The Garfield Movie” is not the type of movie that people should expect to win any major awards, but it’s not a complete waste of time either. It’s a middle-of-the-road film that will get mixed reactions but should satisfy viewers who aren’t expecting a masterpiece or a terrible movie.

Columbia Pictures will release “The Garfield Movie” in U.S. cinemas on May 24, 2024. A sneak preview of the movie was shown in U.S. cinemas on May 19, 2024.

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