Anyone familiar with the long-running Garfield comic strip will know that the chief characteristics of its fat feline star are laziness, cynicism and inertia. The same words could just as easily be used to describe Garfield: The Movie, a misguided attempt to construct a feature-length vehicle around a cartoon creation who was barely tolerable over three panels. Even with Bill Murray voicing the tubby tabby, Peter Hewitt's cat-astrophic caper is mangy enough to make the most undemanding tot have kittens.
The British helmer (not to be confused with Sliding Doors director Peter Howitt) had some success in 1997 with The Borrowers, an enjoyable kids' fantasy that seamlessly integrated a family of four-inch scavengers within a normal-sized world. Here, though, incorporating a computer-generated Garfield within a naturalistic environment is far less satisfying, mostly because the orange furball - like Scooby-Doo - never interacts convincingly with the people and objects around him.
"NOT SO MUCH CAT NIP AS CAT NAP"
Worse, writers Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow forget that Garfield creator Jim Davis surrounded his sardonic antihero with a colourful menagerie of supporting players - clueless pooch Odie, for example, or manipulative moggy Nermal. Clearly the CG budget was not big enough to accommodate these characters, because they appear in the much less interesting form of Dr Dolittle-style talking animals. Throw in a pair of bland human leads - Garfield's put-upon owner Jon (Breckin Meyer) and the pretty vet he fancies (Jennifer Love Hewitt) - and the result is not so much catnip as catnap.
What really sinks the film, though, is the lame plot, which sees Garfield trek across town to rescue Odie from a manic TV personality (Stephen Tobolowsky). Not only does this require the selfish puss to act totally out of character, but it also involves a sadistic act of canine cruelty that will have any self-respecting dog-lover foaming at the mouth.