Garfield The Movie : Special Edition (2004)
4th December 2004
Garfield the cat has a very laid-back and extremely lazy lifestyle. Living with his easygoing owner Jon Arbuckle, the worlds most laziest kitty is able to devote his time to the important things in life - eating copious amounts of lasagne, sleeping, watching TV and tormenting the other pets in the neighbourhood. However, Garfield's cushy life is about to get a hefty downgrade when a new pet arrives in the Arbuckle household.
Unfortunately for Garfield, Jon has a crush on local veterinarian Liz Wilson and in his efforts to win her affection, rather than managing to ask her on a date, he ends up accepting her proposal to take in a stray animal - the dim-witted but loyal dog called Odie. Naturally, Garfield is horrified at the new addition to the family and Odie is everything that Garfield loathes - he's over excitable, chases his tail until he's dizzy, crashes into walls, barks for no reason and is getting far too much attention from Jon!
But after one too many days of being annoyed by the effervescent Odie, one night the resentful and extremely frustrated Garfield locks Odie out of the house. However, this mean-spirited act goes horribly wrong when Odie gets lost then dog-napped by a TV presenter, the evil Happy Chapman. Realising that he has developed a soft spot for Odie, it's down to Garfield to turn off the TV, tear himself away from his favourite armchair and head to the big city to find him.
The picture is bright and colourful with a good level of detail and an above average bit-rate throughout. With the large and detailed amounts of CGI animation on show the transfer is pretty much flawless with some impressive colour tones and good black levels. However, such is the clarity of the print that it can actually be to its determent with certain scenes looking particularly obvious (although, let's be honest here, when was the last time you saw a talking cat?). Still, the CGI Garfield looks remarkable and the detail in his coat is extremely impressive down to his very last hair.
Whilst the picture is rather good, the Dolby Digital 448Kbps 5.1 soundtrack is a big disappointment with very little to get excited about. It's definitely a child friendly film where there's very little excitement in case little Johnny gets taken by surprise and spills his popcorn all over the place. Still, the dialogue is crisp and clear enough in the centre and front channels whilst the surround channels are used sparingly by little else other than the musical score or occasional ambient effect. It's not the most challenging of soundtracks, but I've heard worse.
The main menu system is pleasantly animated and scored with a CGI Garfield dashing and dancing around the screen (why no Odie?) although the subsequent sub-menus are a static and silent affair. The film is available in two guises; the standard single disc edition or, as reviewed here, the two disc version - which, unlike the main disc, has a completely static and totally boring menu system. But which ever set you choose, there are plenty of extras to explore with the more child friendly options on the first disc. However, things don't get off to a very good start as after inserting the first disc you are greeted with a number of annoying trailers for new films and DVD releases. Listen chaps, if we want to watch trailers for new films or forthcoming DVD releases we're quite capable of selecting a menu option!
The main extra on the film disc is the Audio Commentary featuring director Peter Hewitt and Producer John Davis. Both men obviously enjoyed bringing Garfield to the big screen and the commentary they provide contains plenty of information on the technical problems they faced (after all, how do you act to something that is not actually there) and the usual array of casting and directorial issues. It's not the best audio commentary out there, but it certainly provides an interesting adult insight into an otherwise rather tame and child friendly film. Still, it's not something that little Johnny will want to sit through so a repeat viewing will be required.
Next up are sixteen minutes worth of Deleted Scenes and as they are not accompanied by any form of audio commentary or descriptive notes, we are none the wiser as to why they've been removed from the film. Certain scenes are fully rendered, with plenty of annoying copyright messages and time codes that hardly make it worth your while, whilst others include a simple CGI Garfield and overly long scenes which can only have been cut for pacing purposes. Finally, in one of the most bizarre deleted scenes I've ever seen, two dancers (who I assume are suppose to be Garfield and Odie) prance around a stage whilst they choreograph a dance routine. Now considering that didn't even make it anywhere near the film I'd hardly class that as a deleted scene - filler material perhaps, but certainly not a deleted scene.
The seven minute Bringing the Cat to Life featurette looks at how the animation team created Garfield and, as an adult orientated feature, it will appeal to those techie types interested in the computer animation side of things. For something that looks relatively simple to produce, the team went to great lengths in order to give Garfield the right levels of muscle (and fat!) movements along with his famous fur coat. It's just a pity that the featurette is so short. Next up is the Multi-Angle Content - Grab A Number 2 Pencil: The Evolution of Garfield featurette. In it, Garfield creator Jim Davis talks about how his creation has evolved over the years. You may be wondering why this is a multi-angle feature, but tap your angle button and you change views and peer over Jim's shoulder as he draws on a sketch pad. Pressing the button again will revert back to looking at Jim. It's a pretty pointless feature, but never the less it's still a nice touch.
The child friendliness of the film continues with the two games Find Odie Maze Game and Mixing Moments, neither of which will keep the interest of any child for more than thirty seconds. They are so boring it's not even worth the effort in describing what you're suppose to do with them. Finally, the first disc contains an Inside Look at the forthcoming release of the CGI film Robots. Since this new film is from the same people who brought you Ice Age, it is only natural that the CGI animated short Gone Nutty with Scrat from the original film is also included as an extra bit of entertainment. And for anyone who already buys child friendly films from Twentieth Century Fox, they will already know that this short has appeared on pretty much every one of their DVDs to date. Filler material? You betcha!
Extras wise, the second disc is the far more interesting of the two, if only for the extremely interesting interviews with the high affable Jim Davis. Although some of the detail is repeated across the interviews, in the The Birth of Garfield featurette Davis looks back at his farm upbringing and, thanks to his asthma which forced him to stay inside most of the time, shows how he began to draw to amuse both himself and his mother. Both Jim's proud parents are interviewed, and along with other family members and a scattering of pictures, Jim traces the origins of Garfield right up to his big break and syndication. In the The Rise of Garfield featurette, Jim's wife looks at the multi-million dollar industry that is the Garfield merchandise phenomenon plus looks back at the mini crime wave which was caused by the first Garfield window doll. With the amount of money they're pulling in, it's no wonder that his family look so happy!
The From Strip to Script featurette looks at bringing the cartoon to the big screen. Although Jim Davis briefly reappears in this documentary, most of the interviews are with the main cast members and producers. And what a load of claptrap they talk, with the usual collection of all round backslaps and incomprehensible comments about just how good the film is. Still, there's no point putting down the film until the pay cheques clear eh? The Illustrated Technical Commentary section contains a number of rather too technical audio commentaries from the digital FX supervisors. Whilst it's certainly interesting to learn about the various techniques used in the film, with a commentator occasionally using a light pen to highlight certain areas of interest on the screen, it doesn't half drag on too long. By the time I'd had the shadow information explained to me a second time I had got totally bored and disinterested in anything they had to say. Still, at least they can tell their grand children that they provided an audio commentary on a DVD.
Things are rounded off with a rather uninteresting number of multi-angle segments where you can flick between five different angles to see a scene in the different stages of CGI animation process. A separate storyboard segment is also available which allows you to flip between the rough storyboard sketch and the actual film. One things for sure, whoever designed the extras for this disc certainly liked the multi-angle facility. There's such a thing as over doing it you know!
Directed by Peter Hewitt, Garfield: The Movie is adapted from the immensely popular cartoon strip created by Jim Davis and read in over 2000 newspapers around the globe. Jim Davis has managed to turn his simple comic strip into a massive world wide phenomenon with a dazzling array of money spinning Garfield merchandise to go with it. Garfield is an industry in its own right. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Garfield: The Movie is guaranteed to be a hit, because it isn't. Although Jim Davis no doubt controlled the storyline at every level, the final outcome is not a patch on his hilarious comic strips and results in yet another comic to big screen failure.
Whilst Garfield is an impressive piece of CGI, the rest of the animals, including an Odie which looks nothing like his comic counterpart, are all real life with an occasional bit of digital wizardry. Trouble is, it just doesn't work and it fails to flow with any real cohesion or conviction. As a result, it's really hard to justify a purchase, although diehard Garfield fans will find some comfort in the three interviews with Jim Davis on the second disc. Still, with Bill Murray missing from every interview and extra, you just have to wonder whether he had the right idea to distance himself from this rather forgettable project.