Garfield: The Movie

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“Garfield: The Movie” is faithful to “Garfield” the comic strip in that both are benign, obvious and unfunny. How anyone thought they could get a good movie out of a two-joke comic strip — 1) the cat is fat; 2) the cat is also lazy — is beyond me, but here it is, all bright colors and whimsy, waiting to bore you. I get bored reading a “Garfield” strip, and it only takes 10 seconds. Imagine the effect of watching a movie that is just as dull, but 480 times as long.

Garfield is a computer-animated cat who, in a tragedy of epic proportions, is voiced by Bill Murray. He lives with his owner, Jon (Breckin Meyer), who has pictures of himself and Garfield all over his house, which is sadder than I care to contemplate. Garfield’s life of selfishness and gluttony is interrupted when Jon brings in a new pet, a dog (a real one, not a cartoon) named Odie.

Garfield hates the intruder, but when Odie is dognapped by a TV personality (Stephen Tobolowsky) in need of an animal sidekick, our feline hero comes to his rescue in the sort of Big City adventure that has been the hallmark of many a family movie but that has rarely been as anemic and flat as it is here.

That is the whole movie, in fact: toothless, pale, limp and regrettable. It is vigorously unfunny, and I counted three superfluous Wendy’s references among the various product placements, making the whole affair even less tasteful. It was written with a where’s-our-paycheck-please? disinterest by “Toy Story” scribes Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, and directed by Peter Hewitt, whose previous contribution to world cinema was “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.”

You know what I laughed at? Odie the dog, whose skill is that he can dance on his hind legs. The more he does it, the more I laugh. Odie doesn’t speak, and therefore he comes across as a subtle character. This is in stark contrast to Garfield, whose lovability wore out 20 years ago and who comes across in the film as a greedy, unpleasant character.

Plus, he winds up being friends with Odie, and Jon gets the girl (played by Jennifer Love Hewitt) — two clear violations of the comic strip’s extremely simple mythology. Every day is a Monday when you’re watching “Garfield: The Movie,” and all the lasagna has maggots in it.

D- (1 hr., 25 min., including the 5-minute short that precedes it; PG, mild crude humor.)

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