Poor Garfield. After 25 years of being loved for luxuriating in the lap of laziness and lasagna, the fat cat stars in “Garfield: The Movie.”

Big mistake.

Somehow the mean streak doesn’t play as endearingly in live-action literalness as it does in Jim Davis’s popular cartoon strip. Especially when Garfield is a computer-generated confabulation and his frequent victim, Odie the dog, is a real pup with big brown eyes that bore into your soul and make you want to protect him from all predators.

Yes, a star is born. But it’s not Garfield, even if he is voiced by the usually irresistible Bill Murray. It’s Odie, who, like Dumbo, speaks to our hearts without uttering a word. The other animals in the movie, while real, may have celebrity voices (Debra Messing, Jimmy Kimmel, Brad Garrett), but not personality.

The poorly penned plot is derivative even by Hollywood standards. Garfield is the king of the castle until his human, Jon (Breckin Meyer) adopts Odie at the urging of a cute vet (Jennifer Love Hewitt).

Then we segue to the sibling rivalry we saw in “Stuart Little” with Snowball and Stuart and in “Toy Story 2” with Woody and Buzz. Garfield locks Odie out and Odie gets lost. Everyone, including Garfield’s talking cat and dog friends, is mad at him. Garfield sets out to find Odie. Along the way, the world’s laziest cat, turned action hero, frees all the animals in the pound.

Those animals come in handy when Garfield has to face off against a loser entertainer named Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky). The unhappy Happy (ha, ha, ha), looking for a dog act, claims Odie for his own. He puts a collar on the dog that shoots him with electrical currents if he disobeys. Happy tries it out, which upset kids at the screening.

At this point we’re really rooting for Garfield to save Odie. But in the creepiest of the film’s questionable turns, Garfield manages to get the electric collar fastened to the bad guy’s neck. Then Garfield sends electrical currents charging through him. Yes, in a world where recent news about the torture of prisoners appalls, kids are supposed to cheer as the fellow writhes in agony. And then Garfield electrocutes him again.

Ooh, fun!


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