Arts and Entertainment

The Garfield Movie: The Downfall of a Lazy Lasagna Lover

A disappointing combination of inadequate voice actors, an unfit animation style, and a baseline misunderstanding of the title character as a whole unfortunately led to The Garfield Movie being a large letdown.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Never, Jon. Bury me in cheese!” Garfield implores, as millions of fans watching the trailer bury their heads in their hands in unbridled embarrassment. Various edits of this clip quickly went viral as the internet collectively poked fun at the palpable cringe, boding poorly for the rest of the film. Nearly 20 years after the last Garfield movie hit the theaters, the newest addition to the franchise entered theaters: The Garfield Movie (2024). Despite ample time to fine-tune and perfect every aspect of this project, the script proved flimsy at best and uninspired at worst.

The film’s directors attempted to mold the famous fat feline into a character bursting with energy, completely subverting everything Garfield stands for. For nearly fifty years, fans of this lasagna-loving tabby have adored him because of his unchanging relatability—his static hatred for Mondays, constant desire to lounge around and take naps, and avid love of food. The 2024 movie installment’s deviation from the fan-favorite classic may have begun with director Mark Dindal’s decision to cast Chris Pratt as the voice for the film’s slothful protagonist. 

Pratt’s exuberant voice may fit an upbeat character like The Super Mario Bros Movie’s (2023) adventure-seeking Mario, but it was pitifully incapable of capturing the lazy cat essence, making for perhaps one of the worst Garfield voice actors in the franchise. Even avid Garfield enthusiasts agree that Pratt’s casting felt like a cash grab, a thinly-veiled attempt at securing a wider audience with a big-name actor. It’s safe to say that Mr. Mario may have ruined Mondays.

The film opens with a breaking of the fourth wall as Garfield narrates to the audience through a series of rapidfire scenes taken straight from Garfield comic strips. However, this brief sequence is where any semblance to the original feline ends. The film proceeds to launch into a poorly-developed and clichéd storyline following the reunion between Garfield and his long-lost father, Vic. 

As a kitten, Garfield is left hungry and abandoned on the sidewalk by Vic. This heartfelt scene leads to him meeting Jon, who gladly takes him in and raises him. The plot is kicked into action when Garfield is kidnapped by the deranged Persian Longhair Jinx, leading to his reunion with Vic. Jinx has a vendetta against Vic, so she sends them on a sabotaged mission to steal gallons worth of milk from Lactose Farms. It’s as if the directors realized the simplicity of their film’s plot and scrambled to remedy it last-minute; the movie is littered with a confusing amount of subplots, such as the forbidden romance between Lactose Farms’ co-mascots Ethel and Otto. Another key element of the film that seems out of place is Vic’s unceasing efforts at mending his bond with Garfield. What could have been a heartwarming plot about a nascent father-son relationship is soured by the directors’ perfunctory attempt at plot twists. They flip-flop between portraying Vic as a doting father and a selfish never-do-well one too many times, to the point where the so-called twist is no longer surprising. 

Further, the audience finds itself disoriented as the focus of the movie seems to shift from scene to scene; at one instance, Garfield and Vic’s mission is portrayed as life-or-death, but at another, it is forgotten altogether as Otto gushes about his star-crossed lover. By the film’s end, Garfield’s daddy issues are resolved and Vic is welcomed into Jon’s household, and they can all sing kumbaya. For a movie about an exercise-hating cat, the ending was drastically rushed along, likely to ensure the film wouldn’t exceed the two-hour mark.

When turning a comic strip into an animated film, it is inevitable that disparities will arise between the comics and any motion picture adaptations of Garfield. However, anyone who is a fan of the original comics knows that Garfield’s sarcastic one-liners are a hallmark of his character—and this type of humor is completely missing from the film. Furthermore, though Garfield’s main calling card has always been his unathletic physique, the film somehow never extracts anything remotely comical from it. As the storyline progresses, a dichotomy between the attempt at a serious plotline and desperately simple jokes becomes clear. While nearly all of the witty remarks could simply be boiled down to a jab at Garfield’s chubby stomach, there were a few wisecracks mixed in for the older fans to appreciate. This was embodied by perhaps the only humorous line from the entire film, when Jinx’s canine henchman worries that his boss will “Put me down… with her cruel words and insults,” begging the question of whether this film is aimed towards children, or their millennial parents who came of age during Garfield’s prime. The directors tried to walk the tightrope between roping in new, younger audiences and the now-adult Garfield enjoyers, only to fall into a chasm of cringe.

Though there was a significant improvement in animation quality compared to the Murray-era Garfield, the 2024 film’s hyper-realistic stylization was occasionally a detriment, appearing dull or just plain ugly. The scattered appearance of Garfield’s kitten self was hard to take seriously due to his bug-like eyes stretching across the majority of his face, simultaneously resembling neither a real cat nor any of his iconic previous looks. 

Perhaps the film’s only redeeming feature was its complementary merchandise. Theaters like Cinemark and Regal Cinemas boasted collectible pillows and Garfield-themed popcorn buckets, while others like AMC offered Happy Meal-type topper combos with figurines. While the movie itself may have been grossly mediocre, at least its viewers had the plush versions of Garfield and Odie next to them to support them emotionally through its lows. The Garfield Movie idealistically hoped to rehabilitate the laziest character in American pop culture into a fun-loving go-getter, directly opposing the fundamental qualities that made him a crowd favorite in the first place. This disastrous plan was amplified by the director’s choice to put the least humorous people on the planet in a room and pay them to write the screenplay. Sadly, not even the most marketable plushie in the world could have made this stain on Garfield’s record worthwhile.