There was a time when a Garfield movie seemed quite a good idea. That time was the late 1980s when the misanthropic pussy was all the rage. Back then, Jim Davis' creation appeared on mugs, pencil cases, posters and even graced the rear windscreen of one car in every five. Making a Garfield film in 2004, however, feels like a case of Hollywood acting once a window of opportunity has well and truly passed. It's the equivalent of BBC execs only now waking up to the fact that a 'Tellytubbies' movie could rake in the wads.
The fact that Peter Hewitt's film feels like an afterthought extends to the fact that it's hard to tell whether Bill Murray is trying to play bored and grumpy or actually feels that way about a movie he's long been contracted to carry.
There's certainly little for anyone to get excited about on the story front, with Garfield getting a serious bout of the grumps when his owner Jon (Clueless star Meyer) is persuaded by vet Liz (Hewitt) to adopt Odie the dog. Garfield's response is to lock the newcomer out of the house. However, when Odie is kidnapped by TV star Happy Chapman (Tobolowsky), Garfield has a change of heart and sets out to rescue the put-upon pooch.
It would seem that Garfield's big selling point is the CGI Garfield, but while it's an impressive effect, it no more holds the attention than the less well-rendered Scooby-Doo. And as for the leading actors, they're considerably less animated than their co-star. Meyer has been peddling this stoner-esque shtick for far too long now and you wouldn't trust Love Hewitt to carry your shopping let alone a feature film. As for Tobolowsky, his pinched tones are as amusing as always, but he isn't given a lot to work with.
In truth, the only sources of joy are the occasionally witty script by Toy Story scribes Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, and the world-weariness that Murray injects into his dialogue. ("Oh, you little suck-up!" he whinges when Odie brings his master the morning paper). Listen out too for voiceover work from 'Will & Grace's Debra Messing and X2's Alan Cumming - not that they make the movie any more entertaining. It just helps to pass the time.