“Garfield and Friends,” based on comic strips by Jim Davis, was one of my favorite cartoons growing up. With all due respect to the show’s talented writers and other voice actors, the best thing about the show was Lorenzo Music’s performance as the title tabby.

Music’s voice, which somehow always sounded like a yawn, was the perfect fit for a character that spent every waking moment wishing he wasn’t awake. Yes, Garfield would engage in frenzied eating, especially of lasagna, but that was mostly handled with whooshing noises from the sound effects team. Otherwise, Garfield, with Music’s voice, was the personification (cat-ification?) of laziness.

I take this moment to applaud Music as Garfield because I have nothing but negative things to say about Chris Pratt as the character in “The Garfield Movie.” The guy just doesn’t have it in him to sound that lazy. It’s not like he doesn’t have experience playing lazy.

He was always something of a slacker as Star-Lord and his “Parks and Recreation” character spent most of the first season milking an injury. But here, he always sounds like he’s up for an adventure. The movie around him isn’t much of a winner anyway, but it’s already off on the wrong paw when Garfield doesn’t sound like Garfield.

The story opens with a glimpse into Garfield’s days as a kitten, when he was left in an alley by his father Vic (Samuel L. Jackson), and found his way to Jon (Nicholas Hoult), his doormat of an owner. The household soon adds loyal dog Odie (Harvey Guillen, limited to dog noises) and the pets live in sedentary luxury.

Of course, something has to happen to keep Garfield from enjoying complacency, and one night he finds himself cat-napped, as opposed to indulging in a cat nap. He and Odie are brought to a hideout where they meet the long-absent Vic. But Vic isn’t their captor, he’s very much on a short leash himself.


The operation is actually headed by feline crime boss Jinx (Hannah Waddingham) and her hench-cats Roland (Brett Goldstein) and Nolan (Bowen Yang). She has a vendetta against Vic for abandoning her during a milk heist at a farm (sadly not Jim Davis’s “U.S. Acres,” though I would have loved that crossover) years earlier.

But Vic can repay his debt if he, Garfield, and Odie can pull off the same heist now, with the farm having stronger security. The three reluctantly take on the assignment, even though Garfield and Odie are pampered housepets and Garfield and Vic’s relationship is sorely strained.

The rest of the movie is an adventure-comedy that could be filled by characters from any franchise with a spoiled lead lacking in skills and street smarts. The only thing that makes it recognizable as “Garfield” is that Odie, to the movie’s credit, is as awesome as ever with his ingenuity and unwavering friendship.

A few physical gags work, and there are some scene-stealing moments from the villains and a bull voiced by Ving Rhames (I took twisted delight in the very idea of the Arby’s pitchman voicing future roast beef). But every time there’s a string of solid gags or decent action, the miscast Pratt will open his mouth and I’ll be reminded that this movie has a major flaw at a fundamental level.

“The Garfield Movie” is mostly middling, brought down by how much Pratt pales in comparison to Lorenzo Music. At least it has the decency to be wholly animated, as opposed to the Bill Murray movies where the environment was live-action and Garfield was a CGI abomination.

The new movie is never “that” painful, but it doesn’t strike me as anyone’s best work, either. I guess what I’m saying is that this movie, while it could have been worse, is lazy – and not in a way that’s on-brand for Garfield.

Grade: C-
“The Garfield Movie” is rated PG for action/peril and mild thematic elements. Its running time is 101 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.

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