Garfield hates Mondays almost, I assume, as much as Bill Murray hates himself for appearing in this. The urban legend surrounding his reasons for signing onto the film is the funniest aspect of this horror show. Unsalvageable at the best of times, Garfield presents the terror of early-2000s adaptations at their finest. What a wretched, cursed place. An even worse time to grow up in, for my thinly-layered nostalgia for the grumbling, lasagna-loving cat is just as impressionable now as it was almost two decades ago. Time flies when you are amused by the talents of Murray and the torturous attempts at humour he offers audiences.
Jim Davis wouldn’t dare try and adapt Garfield to the big screen. His three-panel comics are a stretch at the best of times, but the feature-length Garfield from director Peter Hewitt does not fly quite so high. With the free reign to offer just about any sort of story from the loose characteristics of Garfield and company, there is much work to be done. Here is a blank canvas with a few core components. It is nice to see that Hewitt and Cohen decided it would be best to stick their feet through such foundation. What else can they do? Panicked expressions set in stone upon their face, they are worried about what they can actually do with a sarcastic cat and his dumb, oblivious owner.
Where can Garfield really go outside of its bumbling pratfalls and relationship between cat and owner? Jon (Breckin Meyer) adopts Odie, and thus adds to the sea of horrid CGI animals and awkward, live-action components. Garfield is fully animated, whereas the forgettable animals that surround him are an eerie cross between taxidermy and Homeward Bound attempts at blurring the line between anthropomorphic and real-world equivalents. Can Jon hear Garfield’s ongoing monologue? Who knows? It is so inconsistent, and at times a conversation between Jon and Garfield is one way. Murray narrates to the camera, but then Jon interjects as if he can hear Garfield. When the director and writing cannot figure out who can hear what, then the project is in deep, deep trouble.
As a character and even concept, Garfield is a wonderful idea. Surprisingly, though, it is Murray who lets the side down. His tired tone is expected and hard to blame. It is not like the script offers him much to work with, but even then, he sounds close to tears at times. “Got milk,” Garfield says, looking down the barrel of the camera. He is a wink away from a crime against humanity, skirting around the edges like the bold and brutal feline he is. That darned cat has lost his charm. Either that, or he has gained the power to rattle my core, disturb me deeply, and construct some of the most horrific acts of cinema displayed in these opening years of the 21st century. Not even aided by a so-bad-it’s-good quality, Garfield is as lazy and bloated as the titular cat himself.