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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Garfield's Fun Fest
Garfield's Fun Fest
Fox // Unrated // August 5, 2008
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted August 25, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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20th Century-Fox has released their latest straight-to-DVD CGI Garfield movie, Garfield's Fun Fest, written by the comic strip's creator, Jim Davis, and starring that fat, lazy, lasagna-loving cat, Garfield. While adults may have a job keeping focused on the familiar, not-too-terribly funny goings-on in Garfield's Fun Fest, the very smallest children should enjoy the bright animation and the cuddly, grumpy Garfield.

Taking up where the previous Garfield movie, Garfield Gets Real left off (you can read my review for that film here), Garfield and Jon still work at Cartoon World, a factory that produces comic strips by filming the cartoon characters live. It's a special time at Cartoon World, because the annual Fun Fest talent competition is coming up, and everyone wants to get in on the act. The only one not too terribly worked up over the contest is Garfield, who has won the event every year. Assuming that's he's going to do what he always does for the show - a stand-up routine with his girlfriend Arlene - Garfield dismisses Arlene's suggestion that they work up some kind of dance routine. What Garfield doesn't realize is that once newcomer to Cartoon World, Ramone of Ramone's Rough Riders, sets his sights on Arlene, Garfield gets aced out of a partner for the contest, and loses his girlfriend.

Worried he's no longer funny when he bombs out during the dress rehearsal for the contest, Garfield is determined to get his "funny" back. But how? A chance glance at Odie's fairy tale book about Freddy Frog, the first creature to be funny - and the discovery therein of a map to Freddy's home - convinces Garfield that by journeying to the Magical Pond in the Mystical Forest, he can drink "funny water" and not only win the contest but get back Arlene. But before Garfield can meet a mysterious teacher who aids him in his quest, he has to get past a host of strange creatures and obstacles to get to the Magical Pond.


I've always been a fan of the Garfield strip, and I enjoyed catching an old Garfield and Friends DVD some months back (you can read my review here), but I remain unconvinced by these new straight-to-DVD movies. Garfield is really a perfect match for 3D-like CGI animation. He's fat, after all, and the tubby tabby's grumpy, slouchy, shuffling walk is ideally suited for this kind of CGI environment: his physical make-up is already a good gag. And these movies are no slouches in the art design department, either. Garfield's Fun Fest looks as good (or even better) than the previous Garfield Gets Real. The animation design is layered and dense, and the coloring is eye-popping. I'm certainly no expert in animation budgets, but to my eyes, in comparison to other recent straight-to-DVD animation aimed at kids, this looks pricey.

Which is all fine, if you're an undiscerning kid (which, to be fair, is the target audience for Garfield's Fun Fest). But parents trying to watch along with their young viewers may find the going a bit of a slog, because all that animation wizardry is in service of a tired, clich├ęd plot, very few genuinely amusing moments, and a distressing reliance on video-game structuring that delivers a few cheap thrills - and that's it. After enduring Kung Fu Panda this summer (which was just okay but again, thoroughly familiar), I'm calling quits on any more "unlikely hero on a journey of self-discovery through a maze of obstacles, guided by the wise council of a Grand Master" stories. I don't care if Joseph Campbell said it's elemental to my culture - screw it. Come up with something new, because I'm bored to tears with it all. Now Garfield has to endure this nonsense, too? The riddles at the various roadblocks in his path? The ninja-like training? The obtuse musings of a sage old groaner? Enough!

And I'm not sure this whole Cartoon World premise for these two films is working, either. I would assume Jim Davis thought this environment up for Garfield to expand the comedic possibilities of the character, but somehow it just comes off as too clumsy to work out the mechanics of it all, and Garfield might be better served just going back to Jon's house to fight his endless battle to sleep and eat as much as he wants despite the presence of idiot Odie and even stupider John. As for the actual "comedy" in Garfield's Fun Fest, it's woefully undernourished. I was really rather shocked at how unfunny Garfield's Fun Fest turned out to be. Ignoring the standard appearances of the odd "poopy-head" and fart jokes here and there (again - enough), there were only one or two moments in the movie that had me chuckling - chuckling, not laughing. Garfield's movie take-offs during the contest rehearsal were amusing, and there's a moment during Garfield's journey where some guard birds are surprised that their own self-described task (making alligators laugh) actually worked, but that's about it (and on a side note, let's try and get the phrase, "You suck," removed from all future kids movies. Some of us parents are old enough to remember when that particular abbreviated phrase was part of a longer vulgarity, and it grates on me every time I hear it used as a common, seemingly innocuous rejoinder in these kids movies).

Maybe the problem is that Garfield creator Jim Davis, who wrote this movie, can't translate his humor into an 80 minute film. What's funny in a three-panel strip becomes drawn out and forced in a feature-length film. The obvious video-game structuring of the scenes is to be expected, I guess, in these days of rampant, voracious synergy, but that doesn't make the film any more palatable. Maybe somebody else should be brought in to write these straight-to-DVD toons? It doesn't help, either, that the voice work here is somewhat muted. Legendary Frank Welker as Garfield doesn't seem all that inspired this time around (true, he's working with a character who's supposed to be ticked off and monotone, but Welker doesn't seem to find any fun here). And unfortunately, Tim Conway basically phones in his turn as Freddy Frog (even that character's name shows Davis' tired approach to the material - Freddy? Really? That's the funniest or most memorable name you could come up with?). I'm a fan of Conway's, but there's very little here to recommend in his rote performance.

But all this carping will probably be for naught, because kids love Garfield, regardless, it seems, of the vehicle. I grabbed two of my younger kids to watch this (it wasn't exactly a struggle to convince them; they went ape when the saw the disc), and although they didn't crack a smile once during the show, when it was over and I asked them how it was, they screamed, "Great! Let's watch it again!" Go figure.

The DVD:

The Video:
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1 widescreen image for Garfield's Fun Fest is, as was the first film, digital perfection, with bright, dazzling colors, a super-sharp image, and no compression issues or artifacting. It really is a good-looking toon on a big monitor.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround mix availably (with most of the speaker action in the front) is agreeable brisk, but unlike Garfield Gets Real, there are no foreign language tracks. Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish are available, along with close-captions.

The Extras:
The only extras available for Garfield's Fun Fest are two DVD-ROM games: Destination Fun Fest and Tango Toss, which popped up immediately and loaded quickly when I put the disc in my computer. The kids enjoyed the games, but I have to say the extras are on the light side, in comparison to the Garfield Gets Real disc.

Final Thoughts:
It's just not funny enough for adults. Garfield's Fun Fest is yet another in the seemingly endless reworkings of The Hero's Journey - which is fine if the fat tabby Garfield got off some funny riffs now and then. But too much of the film is grindingly routine, and the frequently attractive animation can't make up for the rote voice work and the largely unfunny script. Maybe it's time for Jim Davis to hire somebody else to scribble out these straight-to-DVD toons. But, no matter. Little kids will enjoy this, so a rental seems the best course here.

Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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