Garfield: A Tail Of Two Kitties

on June 16, 2006 by Kim Williamson
Perhaps the writing duo of Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (which have teamed for the likes of "Toy Story," "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "National Treasure") might be accused of trying too hard in developing the narrative for the follow-up to "Garfield the Movie," which pulled in a surprising $75 million domestically two summers ago. After all, in the decades that the Jim Davis "Garfield" newspaper comic strip has run, how many times has the fat feline found himself in England, mistaken for a cat who's profoundly rich thanks to inheriting a huge country estate, and the target of an assassination plot hatched by the lord (Billy Connolly) who stands next in line for the wealth? But the result is a meowvie with less ow to it than its predecessor (which Boxoffice gave just 1 1/2 stars).

The live acting corps -- led by the original's Breckin Meyer, who plays Jon, Garfield's romance-challenged owner, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, the veterinarian to whom in this episode Jon is aiming to propose, despite Garfield's antic interruptions -- are fine, but like Odie the dog don't appear onscreen that often. Meyer's Jon is often just a device to push the narrative along, and Love Hewitt is asked for little more than sweetness and decolletage. But that's because the focus throughout remains on Garfield, whose voicing by Bill Murray is top-notch (as is that of Tim Curry as Prince the palatial cat and Bob Hoskins as Prince's major-domo, a bulldog), and not only the renderings but also the substance of the lasagna-loving cat's lines keep the comedy purring along.

Also purring is the buoyant direction by Tim Hill ("Muppets From Space," "Max Keeble's Big Move"), who seems to be much enjoying himself as he comes up with comic visual moments oft (and erroneously) considered beyond the call of family filmmaking. (It's the kind of ardent wit that Hill's writing has brought to the "Spongebob Squarepants" TV series.) And special effects house Rhythm & Hues this time out has better integrated the digitally animated Garfield with the live-action characters and setting. Not only does one enjoy this "Garfield," one can almost believe it. Starring Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Voices by Bill Murray, Tim Curry and Bob Hoskins. Directed by Tim Hill. Written by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow. Produced by John Davis. A Fox release. Comedy. Rated PG for some off-color elements. Running time: 77 min
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