‘The Garfield Movie’ Review: Simple, Light-Hearted Fun for the Whole Family

2024 has been characterized by a scarcity of animated releases, but with a good standard of quality thus far. From the rich, complex Orion and the Dark to the fun, touching IF, I’ve enjoyed most animated flicks – whether hybrid or full – up to this point. Despite growing up with the globally recognized character, I never had a particularly strong personal connection with the sarcastic, lazy, Monday-hating cat that is Garfield. That said, I went into The Garfield Movie with simple expectations of a light, enjoyable daytime session, helmed by director Mark Dindal (Chicken Little), writers Paul A. Kaplan & Mark Torgove (The Late Bloomer), and David Reynolds (Finding Nemo), along with Chris Pratt (The Super Mario Bros. Movie) and co. in the voice cast.

On Differences of Opinion About Cinema and How It Relates to Garfield

The appreciation and subsequent opinion sharing about cinema contain several traps into which all art enthusiasts have fallen time and time again. Many stem from the specific circumstance of belonging to a minority. Whether we “like” a film that no one else does or vice versa, it’s common to notice a fairly predictable behavior from many viewers of said minority: an attempt to justify why others didn’t see the movie the same way. “People just don’t know how to have fun anymore,” “they (dis)liked it because they didn’t understand it,” or “it’s a kids’ flick, no wonder adults can’t enjoy it” are just a few examples of countless phrases uttered in the mission to “prove” that others are “wrong.”

Another trap that will never cease to exist involves the analysis of film adaptations of any kind of source material. Whether it’s books, video games, real events, or even an original narrative based on a pre-existent iconic character – as in the case of The Garfield Movie – there’s a glaring variety of rigor and criteria related to the impact that changes to the original work/character have on the viewer. The spectrum ranges from those who deal incredibly poorly with the smallest, most irrelevant change to those who genuinely feel indifferent about admittedly important modifications.

The Garfield Movie Still 1
Still from The Garfield Movie. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Why all this preamble? Because, after watching The Garfield Movie and realizing the negative reception surrounding it, I felt inclined to fall into the aforementioned traps. The problem has never been, nor will it ever be, the difference of opinion, but rather how it’s expressed. The aggressive, incessant, sometimes disrespectful manner in which certain critics approach an animated film aimed at children and families, whose sole purpose is to entertain with a story admittedly generic, predictable, and full of cliches, is extremely frustrating to witness.

Even more so when you observe difficulty in simply sharing their thoughts and moving on to the next movie, given the exhaustive amount of times the same negative opinion is repeated on social media, as if it were a criminal flick conveying horrible messages. It’s perfectly natural to wish for a better story or more refined technical aspects, but there’s room for those sought-after masterpieces and for movies whose unique goal is to be precisely what they intend to be, neither more nor less: a couple of harmless, light-hearted, humorous hours to entertain a young audience.

The Garfield Movie Offers Humor Plus a Heist

And The Garfield Movie is exactly that. Dindal efficiently blends the sarcastic humor of its protagonist with the central heist of the narrative premise – Garfield’s perfect life is interrupted when he finds himself obligated to help with a “lactose factory” heist – not delving into the sensitive theme of family abandonment and subsequent adoption, but also not attempting to simplify something quite complex. It’s a story clearly more focused on children’s entertainment than on offering something to adults as well, but surprisingly, I laughed more than is usual in similar films. John Debney’s (The Passion of the Christ) score stands out with passionate melodies but also serves as an energetic complement to the action sequences – the use of popular tracks from Mission: Impossible or Top Gun is hilariously employed.

Still image from The Garfield Movie.
Still  from The Garfield Movie. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

The 3D animation doesn’t impress anyone, but it’s a solid effort from the artists involved, as is the one from the voice cast, which is competent across the board. There’s always an actor whose name astonishes me when I see it in the credits of movies of this style. In The Garfield Movie, it was Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) and a vocal performance that left me scratching my head trying to decipher the actor was behind Jon, Garfield’s owner. Additionally, kudos for the excellent casting of Ving Rhames’ (Pulp Fiction) deep voice to a bull and for Pratt’s impeccable performance as yet another iconic character, this time from cartoon history.

Regarding Garfield, I don’t understand the criticism of the so-called “changes” in his personality, since his defining traits remain intact throughout the entire film. Garfield remains a lover of pizza, lasagna, cheese, and everything involving pasta – or food in general, honestly; he continues to use irony and sarcasm to deal with any situation in his daily life; even physically, he remains the adorably chubby orange cat we are familiar with. The Garfield Movie doesn’t even offer him a self-discovery arc where the cat completely changes who he is, focusing only on reuniting the protagonist with his father and letting their adventure together naturally bring them closer.

It’s not a Pixar film that leaves us contemplating life for months on end. It’s not an animated flick that’s visually epic or unforgettable. But it’s a movie that I recommend to all families with children eager to laugh and be entertained for just over an hour and a half in a theater with popcorn, candy, and other sweets thrown into the mix.

The Garfield Movie Still 3
Still from The Garfield Movie. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Final Thoughts on The Garfield Movie

The Garfield Movie may not be an animated masterwork or a film that provokes deep reflections, but it effectively fulfills its purpose of entertaining with a story that’s generic yet packed with fun moments. Boasting the classic sarcastic humor of the titular cat, a light plot, and well-executed action set pieces, it’s an ideal choice for families seeking an enjoyable experience with plenty of laughs. It serves as a reminder that sometimes a film can be appreciated just for what it always wanted to be – a simple, unpretentious form of entertainment, perfect for a session alongside the little ones.

Score: B

The Garfield Movie is now in theaters.

Learn more about the film, including how to buy tickets, at the official website for the title.

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