Rancid Potatoes: ‘Garfield the Movie’

In the first installment of the Life section’s latest review column, we break down the cringey, the captivating and the catty in 2004’s cult classic “Garfield the Movie.”

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Some movies are good, and then some…just aren’t. Some bring in billions at box offices worldwide, make audiences fall in love with their Oscar-nominated casts and probably have Meryl Streep in them. Other movies do none of those things.

We present: Rancid Potatoes, our carefully curated collection of the movies that scratch one nostalgic itch and then give you five new ones in different places you never knew existed. These are the films that shoot for the moon and land in the dumpster behind Towers. They make you Google “free online watch” instead of spending $12.99 for an actual streaming service. They get one star on Letterboxd, but five in your heart. So grab a tube of hydrocortisone, a bag of Skinny Pop and get ready to cringe. Please don’t copyright-strike us, Rotten Tomatoes.

 

An action sequence where a brave protagonist defies the odds and flies to the moon in a homemade spaceship. A musical number that is heartfelt, raw and based on a Billy Joel classic. A true girlboss, inspiring womxn across the globe to join STEM fields, all while wearing a mini skirt and kitten heels. And most importantly, four pans of lasagna.

Why is Garfield CGI’d but not Odie? Why can some animals talk, but not Odie? We have many questions. (20th Century Fox)

The movie is “Garfield.”

Let’s get some glaring questions out of the way. We’re not looking for answers, we just want to make sure you’re as confused as we are. Why is Garfield the only animal fully CGI-d? Why can’t Odie, the dog adopted by Garfield’s owner Jon, speak English when all the other animals can? Why are the Wendy’s burgers square? Is Wendy’s still on the Commodore card?

The first question is perhaps the most important, because we have to watch a fat, orange, slightly deranged CGI cat talk to himself for more than 30 minutes before we realize that the humans can’t understand what he’s saying. But that’s okay, because the main human characters, Jon and Liz (yawn), are so violently milktoast that it doesn’t matter. At least Liz drives a pickup.

The social scientist in us then makes us wonder about the second question: what is the societal hierarchy in the animal kingdom of the GCU (Garfield Cinematic Universe)? We don’t understand British politics, but somehow we can tell that the British cat Persnikitty was a Tory who defected to the Labor Party after being freed from the shackles of pet food spokesmanship. And does Odie just have a screw loose?

While we love Louis the mouse in all his narrative usefulness, we’re very intrigued by the early 2000s phenomenon of sentient rodents resisting authority. What’s that about? (20th Century Fox)

Next…ACAB mouse and his posse. For some reason, the writers hopped on the early 2000s bandwagon of making rodents the leaders of a grassroots resistance against authority. This unique cinematic phenomenon manifested itself as Louis the mouse and his rat brethren warning Garfield about the “po-po,” aka animal control—only in exchange for macadamia cookies, of course. If we had to choose between fighting a man with a gun, fifty eagles or ten lions, one thing’s for sure: we want the 10,000 rats on our side.

The CGI screams 2004, whether that’s when Garfield’s shadow simply disappears or the human actors’ hands phase through his perfectly computer-generated little tummy. But that’s not the only moment at which the laws of physics don’t apply—everything in Jon’s house is a Rube Goldberg machine waiting to be activated. Must be a nightmare for insurance in The City (the only sign on the freeway suggests that’s literally what the city is called), but at least the “Fantasia”-inspired cabinets gave us prime viewing access to Jon’s shelves upon shelves of Kellogg’s cereals and Flavor-blasted goldfish. Available now at your local Munchie Mart, or the appropriate 2004 corporate sellout equivalent.

Liz may be boring on screen, but at least her veterinarian’s coat and miniskirt combo serves as a symbol of empowerment to womxn in STEM everywhere. We salute you, Liz. (20th Century Fox)

We know we haven’t discussed the plot of this movie at all, but it’s because we don’t even remember it. Kudos to director Peter Hewitt (father of main actress Jennifer Love-Hewitt). There probably was a plot, but we were more entranced with Garfield’s little bed and stuffed animal named Pooky. Can Pooky talk? Something to think about when we watch the sequel.

At least for now, we’re not sure which of Garfield’s nine lives he’s on, but the fact that he’s voiced by Bill Murray suggests it’s number seven at least. The awful ending credits, which begin with an abrupt transition to a black-and-white image of Garfield with slowly scrolling words, make us think he’s moving on to his eighth.

And we’re on our ninth.

Rating? Certified cringe.