The trailer for The Garfield Movie dropped yesterday—dropping a Garfield trailer on a Monday is a nice touch—and I assume Lainey thought I’d be interested because I love cats, and Garfield is a cat, but Garfield has never been my jam (I’m an Oliver & Company girlie).
I will admit, though, that the trailer for The Garfield Movie got to me—for the first minute. Turning Garfield into a big-eyed fuzzball is cute, no one likes to think of a tiny helpless kitten hungry in the cold, it’s like sixty seconds of Pixar’s most emotionally manipulative work. But this is a Garfield movie, so the big-eyed cute bit ends with Garfield eating the contents of an Italian restaurant.
As the servant of a prissy cat, I recognize the ring of truth in the bath bit where your cat acts like the worst crimes are being committed upon them when you’re just trying to get them clean, and yes, my cat does like pizza (the only human foods Pancake is interested in are pizza and ice cream). But the fat jokes in the old Garfield comic strips always put me off. It’s why I don’t really like Garfield today, despite being a cat person. When I was growing up and newspapers were a thing, my dad would always leave “the funnies” out for me to read before school. But I always skipped over Garfield, I had too many hangups about food and my own weight and the fat jokes, even though aimed at a cat, made me uncomfortable.
I checked out of this trailer at the precise moment that Garfield, voiced by Chris Pratt because he is contractually obligated to voice every cartoon character now, said, “The eating you’re about to see won’t be pretty.” I have too many residual issues about eating in front of other people for that to land with me.
Also, historically, Garfield movies have been bad. There is Garfield: The Movie—which Bill Murray only agreed to star in because he thought screenwriter Joel COHEN was Joel COEN, of Coen Brothers fame—and there is its even worse sequel, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. These are objectively bad movies, so to say I am cautious about ANY Garfield movie, fat jokes aside, is fair. Garfield is not a piece of media that has translated well to cinema, to date.
Maybe The Garfield Movie will change that. Certainly, there is a formula in place for movies like this, and director Mark Dindal ought to know it backwards and forwards given that he came up as an animator during the dark days of Disney Animation’s wilderness period (The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company), enjoyed the glory days of the revival era (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc), and then survived the transition to CG animation. Apply the action-driven comedic formula of, say, a Minions movie to Garfield, and it will probably work. That’s basically what they did for The Super Mario Bros. Movie—right down to casting Chris Pratt—and it worked to the tune of a billion dollars. Maybe The Garfield Movie will work for you. It’s just not ever going to work for me.