Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

Movie Information

Genre: Live Action/Animated Comedy
Director: Tim Hill
Starring: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Billy Connolly, Bill Murray, Ian Abercrombie
Rated: PG

This movie is mediocrity incarnate. Watching it I felt brain cells leaping to their deaths like so many lemmings. I tried thinking of the experience in terms of training for the Big Fight — toughening up for the eventuality of Little Man opening on July 14 — but it didn’t work.

There may be some of you out there who have noticed that Jennifer Love Hewitt is in the cast and are perhaps hoping that the movie’s subtitle, A Tail of Two Kitties, is a typo. Disabuse yourself of this notion. As in the first Garfield movie, her most famous attributes are held in check. Unlike the first film, she isn’t outfitted in an array of gynecologically-minded skirts.

The title disappoints on other levels, too, since it implies some connection with Mr. Dickens’ famous French Revolution novel, thereby offering some faint hope that Garfield might meet up with Madame Guillotine. No such luck. The title may come from Dickens (or more probably the 1942 Bob Clampett cartoon), but the plot was nicked from Mark Twain’s The Prince and The Pauper with a dash of Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda.

Here’s the pitch: Jon (Breckin Meyer, Herbie Fully Loaded) wants to marry pretty veterinarian Liz (Hewitt); however, not only does his jealous cat, Garfield (voice of Bill Murray), do his best to break this up, it turns out that Liz is on her way to speak at some veterinarians convention in London, so the question doesn’t get popped. As a result, Jon decides to pursue her to London. Naturally, Garfield and Odie the dog manage to stow away.

In the meantime, a look-alike cat named Prince (voice of Tim Curry) inherits one of the stately homes of England, much to the chagrin of the villainous Dargis (Scottish comedian Billy Connolly), who is next in line for the inheritance. Not surprisingly, Dargis plans on offing the offending feline, whom he mistakes for Moses and sets adrift in a wicker basket that somehow makes its way to London via the sewer system. Of course, Prince will be mistaken for Garfield and vice-versa.

In theory, much mirth will ensue. I suppose that 5-year-old viewers may find the collection of broad slapstick and flatulence jokes mildly diverting. Anyone else … well, we can perhaps feel altruistic for contributing to the retirement accounts of an embarrassing array of Brit thespians such as Tim Curry, Bob Hoskins and Richard E. Grant. Or, we can have a moment of nostalgia upon hearing the Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All Over” on the soundtrack — as long as we don’t pause to wonder what it’s doing there. That last is symptomatic of the overall wrong-headedness of the film. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it.

They hire Billy Connolly and don’t give him anything funny to do. They enlist voice talent like Curry, Grant and Hoskins and thrust them into roles that any competent actor could do as well. (Only Vinnie Jones giving voice to an aggressive, albeit none too bright, dog seems to have had a role tailored for him.) Had Curry approached the voice of Prince with even a hint of the world-weary decadence of his signature Rocky Horror Picture Show role, there might have been some point to his casting. (It would have also dovetailed nicely with Garfield’s peculiar remark, “I wish Jon was a queen.”) But, no, he’s just in the cast for name value.

The wrong-headedness doesn’t stop there. Late in the film, someone hit on the bright idea of ripping off the mirror scene from the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup, and it actually results in one of the movie’s brighter moments — until you realize that there’s nothing especially clever or accomplished about the sequence when its done with animated characters. The delight of the original lay in the choreography of the actions of Groucho and Harpo, both in its flawnessness and its deliberate flaws. That’s completely missing in this Marx ex machina approach.

On the bright side, however, the easy money for Bill Murray in dreck like this may be what allows him to be in films like Broken Flowers and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Take comfort where you can find it. Rated PG for some off-color elements.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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