Review: Garfield The Movie

Garfield The Movie Garfield The Movie by H.S. Newcomb
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review is focused on both the book and audiobook. “Garfield: The Movie” is the audio adaptation of the recently released movie which is based on the weekly comic strip by Jim Davis. And unfortunately, these three degrees of separation does the lasagna-loving orange feline little justice. It’s a decent translation at best, but it functions best as a general kids’ story than as a tribute to our favorite orange feline.

The plot begins with Garfield, big, fat, and sole center of attention for pet-owner Jon Arbuckle, discovering that he is no longer number one. Love-stricken and tongue-tripping Jon accept Odie, a homeless dog, from his pretty veterinarian. A pet rivalry ensures with Garfield scheming to be the best-loved pet of Jon and overthrow the oblivious Odie. While admittedly jealous, Garfield’s intentions are mostly to still be number one in his owner’s heart and not to get rid of Odie entirely. However, Odie is kidnapped by a deranged television host, Happy Chapman, who wants to use the dog on his show. And if Odie misbehaves, he gets shocked by a volt of electricity. Ostracized by his friends for abandoning Odie, Garfield sets out to find the lost dog, shortly followed a perplexed Jon, who has now lost two pets, and Liz, the veterinarian.

The story holds some classic material and references such as Garfield’s love for lasagna, Odie’s slurping and chasing his own tail, as well as Jon playing on his railroad. But other aspects of the comic, such as Nermal, are wrong. In the comic strip and even the early 1990’s cartoon, Nermal is a boisterous and obnoxiously cute kitten. In this audiobook, he is a Siamese adult cat with a German accent. Even Garfield at times comes across more as a nagging or tedious mother-in-law type rather than the wittier loveable cat of the comics. In the audiobook, he seems more agoraphobic than the strip lets on, fearing to leave the safety of his precious cul-de-sac.

At the end, the audiobook features a brief interview with creator Jim Davis. Fans of Garfield will enjoy listening to this interview filled with both serious and silly questions about Davis’s famous feline. The one question that should have been asked is “Can Jon actually hear Garfield?” In the comic strip, no one can ever be sure if Jon is responding to Garfield, or is he just talking aloud and asking rhetorical questions. In the audiobook, it is clear that though Jon speaks to Garfield on several occasions, he does not expect or hear responses from his cat.

Edward Herrmann could probably read a dictionary and make it enthralling enough for listeners to stay tuned in. So his choice as narrator of this audiobook can only add to the quality of the production. Herrmann keeps his characters straight and delivers some fantastic voices for Jon and Happy Chapman. He delivers a fair enough Garfield, but if you have spent years reading the comic strip, he’s just not going to match the voice in your head. While Garfield is often self-centered and arrogant, Herrmann sometimes over does these qualities in Garfield’s voice. But reality always has troubled matching imagination and one must remember this is an audiobook based off the movie.

"Love me, feed me, never leave me,” Garfield states in the audiobook which is very akin to his comic strip persona. But we know that this is not the Garfield we all love. It’s a perceived Garfield, slightly modified to be marketable to all children and adults, regardless of whether they are a fan or not. It may not be authentic, but it is a good children’s story that will certainly keep them and you entertained for a few hours.

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