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Garfield The Movie
cast: Brecklin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Stephen Tobolowsky

director: Peter Hewitt

77 minutes (U) 2004
widescreen ratio 16:9
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Emma French
Despite its obsessive concern with authenticity and adherence to the look and ethos of the cartoon strip, Garfield The Movie also has some nice new touches. The movie opens with some very cute photos of Garfield as a kitten, signalling an interesting attempt to give him some 'backstory' outside his cartoon origins whilst remaining faithful to them. The film, like the comicstrip, is charming and accessible for children but also wryly amusing and engaging for adults.

Bill Murray's voiceover is the best thing about the movie - sardonic and lazy, he was born to voice Garfield. Breckin Meyer is very well suited to playing Jon, and Jennifer Love Hewitt's brand of bland but likeable and attractive heroine works well as Jon's love interest. Odie, played by a real dachshund crossbreed, is one of the star turns, particularly his fabulous dancing, a complex ballet of hind-leg twirls and jumps. Louis the mouse is voiced hilariously by Nick Cannon, and is strongly reminiscent of Chris Rock's scene-stealing turn as the voice of the guinea pig in Eddie Murphy's Doctor Dolittle. Alan Cumming works his camp and bitchy niche very well as the voice of fading thespian cat Persnikitty. Nermal the kitten, voiced by David Eigenberg, is one small disappointment - Nermal reflects his cartoon strip character less successfully than the other major characters and appears to have been inserted into the film as a box-ticking measure to ensure fidelity to the cartoon rather than to serve any real purpose.

The DVD extras are extensive, constituting an entire second disc. The multi-angle content, for those who want to delve further into the stunning combination of live action and computer generated images, includes key scenes (Porch Dance, Odie's On TV, On The Fence, Disco Dog! and It's Liver Flavoured), which can be viewed from four or five different angles. There is also a two-angle storyboard to film comparison that, once again, lets the viewers behind the scenes - the crudity of the storyboard drawings contrasts effectively with the sophistication of the final product.

There are also four featurettes and an illustrated technical commentary. The Birth Of Garfield covers the life story of his creator, Jim Davis, including his background and how he came up with the concept. Jim Davis is refreshingly frank about his persistence and rejections before finally getting Garfield syndicated as a comicstrip in 1978. Now it is the most syndicated comic strip in the world. The Rise Of Garfield is the most interesting of the four featurettes, as it includes vox pops with some of Garfield's most ardent and deranged fans, and also documents the extraordinarily huge merchandising franchise that has developed around the fat cat. Garfield: From Strip To Script, as the title suggests, shows how Garfield was brought to life on celluloid, and has some interesting asides on, for example, Breckin Meyer's insecurity about acting in an effects move opposite an invisible cartoon cat, and his solution; to place himself in the mindset of an eight-year-old boy. The illustrated technical commentary is slightly and inevitably dry and nerdy in comparison to the preceding three featurettes, but it is impossible not to admire the artistry involved in the movement and lighting effects. The short film also addresses such fascinating technical problems as creating Garfield's fur, and how to allow Garfield to express emotions when he has no eyebrows.

All in all this is an accomplished and at times hilarious film, genuinely fun for all the family, with a range of well-thought out extras which provide interest for everyone from the Garfield aficionado to the CGI enthusiast.

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