Film Review: The Garfield Movie hates its audience as much as its lead feline hates Mondays

Similar to the disdain many had when it was announced that Chris Pratt would be voicing Mario for last year’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the actor’s involvement as Garfield hasn’t assisted in warming him to the masses that have seriously turned on him in a manner many never saw coming after his winning work in TV’s Parks and Recreation and as an affable action figure in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Unlike Mario, where they actually had a decent enough gag that referenced Pratt’s distinct lack-of-Italian-nationality, The Garfield Movie is just Pratt being Pratt, injecting no ounce of characterisation into a figure that appears more lazy here than empirically drained.  Basically, he talks about hating Mondays and eating copious amounts of food, but such actions does not a Garfield make.

Not that we would entirely forgive Pratt’s vocal work for his disconnection from the character in a better movie, but a story of worth from screenwriters who cared about their credits could have helped soften the blow, but, sadly, the Paul A. KaplanMark TorgoveDavid Reynolds-penned script settles for a series of disjointed set-pieces that reference a multitude of other IP efforts, which, in turn, only highlights this film’s lack of originality.

The dysfunctional relationship between Garfield and Jon that made up so much of the original comic strip is nowhere to be seen either.  In fact, Jon himself – here voiced by Nicholas Hoult (one of the many talented names that earned a presumably generous pay packet from Sony) – is mostly an afterthought of the film’s, with Garfield’s tale adopting a heist movie mentality that revolves around his long-lost father (Samuel L. Jackson), a scheming cat (Hannah Waddingham) intent on exploiting their relationship for her own revenge purposes, and, somehow, a bull (Ving Rhames) who helps orchestrate the saviour of his beloved from a dairy factory.

And if seeing all those talented names wasn’t enough to send you into a spiral of depression, Snoop Dogg, Bowen Yang, Angus Cloud, Janelle James, Brett Goldstein, Harvey Guillén (absolutely wasted as canine sidekick Odie), and Cecily Strong (admittedly doing some enjoyable vocal work as an animal control officer) are also roped in on this mess of a movie that can’t decide just who exactly it wants to cater to.  And therein perhaps lies The Garfield Movie‘s biggest problem: it’s identity.

Aside from its story that feels so haphazardly constructed, the film’s humour sits in an odd pocket where it can’t decipher if it wants to appeal to children or the adults dragged along out of necessity. “Jokes” about fast food delivery apps, dating apps and anxiety don’t exactly speak to the young tykes there to see a grumpy cat, and even with all the distracting action taking place on screen, none of it seemed to land with the children in the audience.  I’ll happily put my hand up and say a film isn’t for me, but if it’s hitting with the target market, then who am I to take away such a recommendation? But the reaction was more tumbleweeds than tummies rumbling with laughter.  And if you’re not even making kids laugh, arguably the easiest audience to entertain when it comes to animation, what’s even the point?

On the positive side of things, it’s an appealing film to look at in terms of its animation, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you know director Mark Dindal has worked in the animation department for such productions as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and Chicken Little.  But vibrant visuals should almost be a given, so achieving the bare requirement hardly constitutes a reward for a film that seems to hate its audience as much as its subject hates Mondays.


The Garfield Movie is screening in Australian theatres from May 30th, 2024.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.