The Garfield Show: Private-Eye Ventures:
Being of a certain age, I remember well when Garfield didn't even look like Garfield. I'm sure it's easy to find online, but yes, the lazy cat wasn't always so rounded. He's always been no good, however, in the most lovable way, and has always worked best in four-panel format, in which he can deadpan for three panels before finally calling owner Jon an idiot, and tucking into some lasagna. But well over a quarter century later, it becomes clear that still new revenue streams must be discovered, in order to keep the brand fresh. So here we have Garfield's animated adventures.
There has been a movie or two, television specials, and another animated series, but this is my first viewing of the latest, a CGI affair which premiered in France in 2008. These 12-minute episodes really expand in scope, while continuing to hit those themes that Garfield creator Jim Davis established so long ago. Garfield is lazy, too smart for his own good, loves lasagna and hates spiders. Jon is hopeless and Odie the dog is stupid. Yet these adventures fold in sleuthing shenanigans, aliens, alternate realities, and bizarre forms of lycanthropy - things that terrified and confused my little girl. So I guess I'm out of luck.
Older kids with a weird side to their personalities may find some pleasure here, however. With plenty of mildly dark humor, episodes pack in sights such as Odie and Garfield turning into scary, hulking beasts, or Garfield visiting a world wherein Jon and Odie appear as giant spiders. It feels like an unhealthy amalgam to me, but you can't argue that these adventures, though not exactly full of private eye activity, at least are thematically cohesive. Furthermore, it probably would have been a bad idea to call these Weird and Scary Adventures, wouldn't it.
Episodes included are: Pasta Wars, Agent X, Freaky Monday, Curse of the Were-Dog, Curse of the Cat People, and Time Twist. Three episodes involve alien life forms, one involves personality transference, one involves monsterism; you see my point. We can at least thank Agent X for including a cute mouse as a purported super spy.
Considering heavy doses of menace and parapsychology, you might think The Garfield Show: Private-Eye Ventures to be a Fringe/X-Files version of the venerable cat's antics. With CGI animation that further distances this version of Garfield from his humble roots, this DVD is for today's jacked-up primary school kids. If you hold memories of Garfield dear, or foolishly try to screen this DVD for your sensitive 5-year-old girl, you'd better look out - the Were-Dog is coming to get you.
This DVD comes widescreen, enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs, preserving the original aspect ratio of the episodes as broadcast on television. The picture is sharp, clear and clean. Colors are bright, but far from garish, and overall this is a fine looking presentation, free of compression artifacts.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio, while not as active as a 5.1 mix would probably be, is still fairly jazzy for a cartoon. Everything is mixed nicely and properly balanced, with a robust range that shows off all of the creepy, spacey and otherworldly sound effects used.
A handful of Garfield Shorts eat up 3 minutes of time. These shorts preserve the four-panel vibe of Garfield's comic strip origins, but quickly become repetitive, since basically all of them involve Garfield bashing an anthropomorphic alarm clock with a huge mallet.
The Garfield Show: Private-Eye Ventures DVD is for today's jacked-up primary school kids. With six 12-minute episodes primarily concerning themselves with fantastic themes, this collection has plenty of aliens and creepy weirdness, but not so much of the lasagna-scarfing humor we've grown so used to. If you hold memories of Garfield dear, or would foolishly try to screen this DVD for your sensitive 5-year-old girl, you'd probably better Rent It before making any rash decisions.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com