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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Garfield the Movie: Purrrfect Collector's Edition
Garfield the Movie: Purrrfect Collector's Edition
Fox // G // December 6, 2005
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted December 1, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

When I was in the third grade, a friend of mine suddenly rose like a phoenix from the ashes to untold heights of popularity amongst our grade school peers when it was revealed that he could draw a perfect Garfield on anything – pencil cases, trapper keepers and binders proved to be the most popular items. Why do you need to know this? To keep in mind that at one point in the eighties, Garfield ruled the Earth. His popularity was so out of control that it would bestow upon a gangly third grader the ability to woo new friends and become a sort of cartooning super-stud simply by doodling a primitive looking comic strip cat.

Fast forward two decades (God, that makes me feel old) and Garfield is back – well, technically he never went away, he just became less popular over time. At any rate, he finally made the leap to a live action (sort of) film after twenty five years of panelized syndicated mayhem, a solid cartoon series (I don't care what anyone says, Garfield And Friends was good), and all manner of books, toys, and any other form of merchandise you can think of. The problem is that although Garfield has made a reappearance in the collective consciousness of our pop culture world once more, he forgot to bring the 'funny' with him this time out.

The plot of the film is simple enough. Garfield (a completely CGI rendered creation voiced by the one and only Bill Murray) lives alone with his owner, Jon (Breckin Meyer), a likeable loser with a good heart and not a whole lot of social grace. Garfield spends his days eating John's lasagna and stealing milk and the occasional pie from the neighbors, taking time out to periodically torment the local dogs and pick on another neighborhood cat named Nermal.

Garfield more or less has it made, and he knows it, until one day when Jon takes Garfield to the vet's office and leaves with a new dog that he takes home in an attempt to impress the cute little veterinarian who works there, Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt). The dog, named Odie, proves to be a constant thorn in Garfield's side and when Odie starts getting more attention and affection from Jon and his friends than he gets, it's time for him to take action. One night he locks Odie out of the house, figuring that ought to put the dumb mutt in his place, but unfortunately Odie runs off and ends up with a wanna-be newscaster named Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky) who comes up with a completely retarded scheme to use Odie to break into broadcasting big time.

Eventually Garfield proves that he is not without a soul and he caves, opting to head on out of his beloved cul-de-sac and rescue Odie in hopes of saving him before it's too late and to redeem himself for his past transgressions. It's all very predictable, very drawn out, and not funny in the least.

First things first – while Garfield's character may prove he is not without a soul by having a change of heart and taking it upon himself to save the dog, the style in which he is animated does nothing to further that characteristic. The entire film is a live action endeavor save for Garfield himself, who is completely computer generated and as such, stands out like a really big sore thumb. The fact that the likeness isn't all that akin to the Garfield we know and love from Jim Davis' long running comic strip doesn't help matters much, and what we have here is some sort of mutant offspring of that original cat – it just doesn't work, and in all seriousness, it's kind of creepy.

If an eerie faux-cat isn't enough to turn you off, there's the humor – or severe lack thereof. None of the jokes in this movie are funny. They're definitely silly and they're definitely goofy, but they're not funny. As the film played out before my bleeding eyes, I wanted nothing more than to laugh. Garfield And Friends was able to make me laugh, and Davis' comic strip was able to make me laugh - Garfield: The Movie only made me cringe. The dialogue is predictable. The story is predictable. There's no suspense, no surprise, and no reason to care about anything that's happening.

With that being said, is Bill Murray's voice work able to salvage any of this mess? No, sadly it isn't, or at least not enough of it. Murray does do a good job of sounding bored for parts of the film, as Garfield should sound, but then when in a few completely out of character scenes the world's most famous cat kicks into action, he just doesn't seem to fit – neither do the scenes for that matter. Garfield is supposed to be fat, lazy, and sarcastic and while the sarcasm comes across well, the fat and lazy does not and as such, Garfield just doesn't seem like Garfield.

It's a sad reflection on the film when the supporting animal characters are more interesting than the lead. Garfield's mouse friend is the best part of the movie and he's only interesting for a couple of minutes. The rest of the film strays way too far away from the qualities that made the strips and the cartoons as funny as they were, and the end result is a generic, boring, and poorly written mess of movie that won't likely appeal to anyone over the age of four.

The DVD

Video:

Fox gives you the option of checking out the film in either its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85.1 in a transfer that is enhanced for anamorphic sets, or in a pan and scan fullframe presentation that seriously compromises the compositions and makes a bad movie even worse. Overall, the image quality on this release is really quite good. The picture is sharp and detailed and the color reproduction is fantastic. Black levels stay strong and deep and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts. Edge enhancement and line shimmering is kept to a minimum and the picture is free of any print damage and exhibits only a minor amount of film grain in a few spots.

Sound:

The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is on par with the video quality – it's very good. There are plenty of scenes in here where animals run around and scurry across floors and streets and this provides ample opportunity for the surround channels to get a bit of exercise. In addition to the effects, the dialogue sounds nice and clear and the background score is balanced properly and also comes through quite nicely. Bass response is strong and lively and there's really very little to complain about here in terms of quality.

Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish and an English language closed captioning option is also present. Likewise, optional 2.0 Surround tracks are available in French or Spanish. At times, the film actually plays better in either of those languages, especially if you're not fluent in them, as then you can make up your own jokes and dialogue as you go along which makes for a much funnier experience than the one provided by the film itself.

Extras:

This new Purrrfect Collector's Edition of the movie is a two disc set. Here's what you'll find and where you'll find it:

DISC ONE:

On the first disc is an audio commentary with the director of the film, Peter Hewitt, and the producer, John Davis. This is a pretty technical examination of the efforts that went into the film with a lot of emphasis put into the CGI rendering of Garfield and the special effects work that went into making the animals talk. They cover some of the basic stunt work that was created for the film, some casting decisions, and the road from adapting the popular comic strip for the big screen as well as Jim Davis' involvement. It's a surprisingly high brow commentary that treats the subject matter with the utmost seriousness for most of its running time, and in all honestly it's reasonably interesting to listen to.

Also on the first disc are some interactive DVD-Rom games: Garfield Comic Creator, Lasagna From Heaven, Amazing Garfield and a couple of Garfield Jigsaw Puzzles.

DISC TWO:

The second disc is where the bulk of the supplements can be found in the form of a few sizeable documentaries that explore the making of the film and the history of Garfield in general.

Pick Of The Litter is a look at Garfield's career from the early years as a comic strip idea that festered out of the brain of a young Jim Davis through to the insane popularity he experienced during the eighties right up the present day where he's now the star of a feature film. Davis does a lot of explaining about his creation's early years and this actually turned out to be fairly interesting, as did the section that shows us just how crazy the merchandising got to be during the heyday of the cat.

Garfield – Bringing The Cat To Life is a look at how the wonders of CGI brought Garfield to a moving, talking, creation rather than a simple still drawn critter. The Garfield Presentation reel relates to this feature as it shows off some of the rendering and gives us a look at what's involved in creating a computer generated kitty cat.

The Composite Workshop is a look at the work that was done to bring five of the scenes with supporting animal characters to life in the film (with multiple angles, even), and it shows us how the live action material was combined with the computer generated bits and pieces to flesh them out and provide the illusion that they're talking to one another and doing what they're doing in the film. The five scenes looked at here are Porch Dance, Odie's On TV, On The Fence, Disco Dog, and It's Litter Flavored. This material also comes with an optional Illustrated Technical Commentary that features info from the visual effects supervisors who worked on this material.

Up next are seventeen deleted scenes. These are all presented with time code and in roughly two thirds of them, Garfield is not a finished CGI creation but instead a polygonal blob that kind of floats across the screen. This results in some really strange, almost surreal moments that makes one wonder if the movie would have been funnier had Garfield in fact been rendered as a weird blob and not as a creepy asexual cat. Most of these are quick little snippets of character interaction or trimmed moments from scenes that were used in the final version of the movie. None of this deleted material makes the film any better, but it's keen to see it included here if only for the strange blob factor.

Ice Age fans might be interesting to know that the second disc contains a five minute animated short film entitled Gone Nutty that features Scat the squirrel from that film getting into some food related trouble. It's a cute little short film, though it feels out of place on this release.

Rounding out the extra features are two more games: The Find Odie Maze and Mixing Moments With Garfield, a terrible Baha Men video for the song Holla that was used in the movie, and some theatrical trailers for the feature and other, unrelated Fox DVD releases. There are also some storyboard to film comparisons that are marginally interesting as they do demonstrate the thought process that brings the movie from an idea to an actual finished product.

Final Thoughts:

Well, if you're a fan of the film, I guess you'll probably really enjoy this set. Fox has put a lot of extra features onto the two DVDs and there really is a wealth of extra content. The movie looks and sounds really nice, but unfortunately fails to deliver anything that this reviewer personally found even remotely entertaining. The presentation is great, make no mistake, but Garfield The Movie is awful and I can't say anything but to skip this one unless you already know you really like the film.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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