BREAKING: Garfield Leaves the House in "The Garfield Movie"

The Garfield Movie

Director: Mark Dindal
Starring: Chris Pratt,  Samuel L. Jackson
Studio: Sony Pictures

Genre(s): Comedy
Rated: PG (For action/peril and mild thematic elements)

While the bar for great animation has been raised, that doesn't mean the medium is not above having a little bit of fun here and there. And if audiences want to have fun, I can think of no better character to bring back than Garfield. Premiering in 1978 as a comic strip, the character went on to become a worldwide phenomenon, with merchandise galore, multiple specials, and two cartoon series that have held up much better than they have any right to. There were also a couple of live-action movies starring Bill Murray as the cat, and I found those movies fun primarily because of Murray's wit and droll performance.

The Garfield in "The Garfield Movie" is now voiced by Christ Pratt, who gives the character a more energetic performance than I am used to, however, the movie delivers the goods because of the many funny sight gags, with just enough heart to make (most) cynics go "awww." Course, this is to be expected from director Mark Dindal, whose previous films include the charming "Cats Don't Dance" and the revolutionary Disney film "The Emperor's New Groove." This is his first film since "Chicken Little" (a rare misfire for him), and time has not dulled his comedic senses.

"The Garfield Movie" follows the fat cat as he is taken from his life of luxury and paired up with his dad Vic (Samuel L. Jackson) to steal some milk from a farm. It's a small story that exists to give Garfield and his pal Odie something to do, but what else did you expect? The movie also deals with Garfield's origin story in more detail, and these are the scenes that contain the most heart of the film. Otherwise, the film is more concerned with making the audience laugh as much as possible. Is the movie a laugh-a-minute riot? No, it's not. Some of the jokes land and others don't, as is typical with most comedies.

There are even a few groans to be found. The kids at my screening were the ones having the most fun (though a cameo from Snoop Dog as a cat certainly got the critics laughing while the kids were confused). Does "The Garfield Movie" change the game of animation? No, but it doesn't need to. No one in their right mind is going to compare this to the recent Spider-Man animated films or "The Boy and the Heron." This is not that kind of movie. This is the kind of movie that is on par with the Minion movies and the recently released "Migration."

I can not stress this enough: "The Garfield Movie" is made primarily for kids and Garfield fans. There is no reinventing of the wheel. It is an extended Looney Tunes cartoon and you're going to have to accept that fact before you buy a ticket. Considering the movie landscape right now, it's the best family movie currently in theaters. That seems unlikely to hold up, and as such its presence at the box office may be brief.  I expect its true success will be at home, where kids can be entertained by the film as many times as they want while the parents get some work done.