7 Things The Garfield Movie Got Completely Wrong
Like any true Garfield fan, I camped out for days to see Garfield: The Movie at midnight on opening night. It was June 11, 2004. There's no way I could forget such an important date. All us lasagna heads were excited to see the first-ever film adaptation of the world's biggest (most syndicated) comic.
Judging from the leaked footage, it appeared the movie would take cues from the classic late-'70s/early-'80s Garfield books. You know the ones: Garfield At Large, Garfield Gains Weight, Garfield Bigger Than Life.
The Holy Trinity, if you will.
In other words, I was hoping that the movie would center on the storyline where Garfield is told to not eat lasagna, is mean to Odie, and then eats the lasagna anyway. Maybe Jon expresses some mild dissatisfaction. That's the real Garfield, man. That's what we all wanted.
Little did we know the travesty against the franchise's good name we were about to witness. Peter Hewitt's Garfield: The Movie is a complete butchering of one of the most popular comics of our generation, so much so that I refused to even discuss it for years after. Sixteen years, to be exact, but I'm finally ready to break my silence. Someone has to do it. We've been quiet for too long, people. Here are seven things GTM got completely wrong about America's favorite fat cat.
Garfield's Face Doesn't Look Like Garfield's Face
His face is on everything from backpacks to hats to T-shirts. Did the filmmakers think we wouldn't notice if they just fudged the details on his appearance? He looks like a police sketch artist's rendition of the actual Garfield. You can tell the marketing department caught this, because the face you see on the posters ...
... is much closer to Garfield's face in the comics ...
... than what we see in the film.
I wouldn't even wish a face that dumb on Heathcliff fans.
To be completely honest, I found staring at the poster and wondering what a great Garfield movie would be like far more satisfying than watching the huge pile of garbage we eventually got. It's not just his face that looks weird, either ...
Garfield Is Too Thin
When will Hollywood's obsession with slimming down characters end?! Garfield is known for being a fat cat, as he is called this repeatedly in the comics. The Garfield we get in GTM isn't fat, even if a stick-thin Jennifer Love Hewitt says he is.
How about you quit body-shaming and go whisper at some ghosts, jerk?
He may look a little extra floof in the promo picture above, but that's just because he's being cuddled. I'm the one who needed cuddling the first time I saw his gaunt frame in GTM, though.
Is this movie set in a lasagna-less dystopian future?
I worried that maybe he was sick, to be completely honest. I'd stop short of even calling that plump, much less fat. Hey studio execs: Not every star needs to be 12 pounds thinner than when you found them. Given how much Garfield hates diets (second only to Mondays: issue #2148) I think we can safely say that the cat himself would have hated his slim-down in this movie. Two paws way down.
He Also Walks On All Fours
It's a liiiiitle bit difficult for your wise-crack to really land when you're hunched over like an actual common cat! That's why in the Garfield universe, walking on all fours is reserved for the Odies of the world. At least that was true until this Nermal of a movie.
Why not just make him a lion while you're at it?
Garfield started walking on his hind legs in 1981, due to a collaboration between creator Jim Davis and godfather of comics Charles Schulz. Does Peter Hewitt know better than Schulz? If so, I'd loooooove to see him create a multi-decade, internationally beloved comic strip/Christmas special. Well, we're all waiting, Mr. Hewitt!
Odie's Origin Story Is Not Canon
Odie's origin story is nothing like it is in the comics.
He also looks like a real dog; don't even get me started on that bullshit.
***SPOILER ALERT*** Jon adopts him in an effort to impress the vet, as opposed to assuming ownership of him when Lyman (his original owner and Jon's roommate) disappears for no reason and is never mentioned again. This completely changes Jon's relationship with Odie, which is the emotional core of many of the comic's story arcs. That said, the real spoiler alert should be given whenever this movie is played, for spoiling all of our childhood memories.
Jon Gets The Girl
While non-fans probably ate up the typical Hollywood garbage when Jon kisses his love interest at the end, I was writhing in my seat. Everyone knows that Jon is a disgusting loser that is always trying to be nice to people and get dates but can't because he's a disgusting loser, like I just said.
He doesn't even deserve a cat, much less a girlfriend.
But this movie gives us John Wayne instead, completely betraying the Jon Arbuckle character. If you're going to put Jon Arbuckle on-screen, he MUST be a sad, unlovable idiot who will certainly die alone for no discernible reason that is ever given. At the screening I attended, one true fan yelled, "SLAP!" at the end of the kiss, because every true fan knows that Jon kissing a woman ends with him being slapped. Everyone cheered this hero, and we carried him out of the theater on our shoulders.
Furthermore, the up-to-date reader of Garfield will notice that Jon has had a girlfriend for approximately one month since the character was created in 1978: Liz. Jon successfully kisses her once during this period, but this period is in 2006, well after the release of GTM. So, not only does GTM give us a Jon who kisses, that perversion of the character leaks back into the original source material like Nermal coming back from Abu Dhabi. Just one more reason to hate this abomination.
They Added More Characters
GTM adds new characters that seem hastily shoehorned into the script. Luca the doberman next door is just a mean dog. That's it. Nothing more to him.
No one wants you here.
Compare that to one of the original characters we love, like Odie, who is a dumb dog; Jon, who is a sad man; or Liz, who is a mean lady. Gee, I wonder why they would force a bunch of extra, flimsy characters into the script. Could it be to sell more toys?!
This was such an obvious and insulting cash grab that I almost didn't buy them. Also, the Stephen Tobolowsky action figure is poorly constructed.
There's Way Too Much CGI
Unfortunately, Garfield: The Movie will go down in history as yet another great comic movie ruined by CGI. Peter Hewitt seems to have been more interested in what CGI could do rather than what it should do. All us lasagna heads wanted was classic Garfield storytelling about hating Mondays and loving sleeping.
Did we really need Garfield dangling out a 14th-floor window? Did we need him scrambling around air ducts, risking his life like a dumb dog? I think not.
What CGI allowed Peter Hewitt to do was to have Garfield having daring adventures outside the house, all around town. I've got news for Peter Hewitt: That's a Heathcliff movie. This proves that he misunderstands the Garfield property at its very core. Far less distracting than a CGI Garfield would have been simply dressing Bill Murray up in a full-body Garfield costume and creating a giant house set so that he looked cat-sized.
The errors go on and on: In this so-called Garfield movie, he moves around a ton for a notoriously lazy cat, he talks to himself instead of thinking to himself (did the director even read a single comic?), Odie's tongue isn't the same size as his body, and Arlene is a normal cat rather than a bright pink Guillermo del Toro-style nightmare creature with enormous teeth and eyes that take up half her head.
This is what a Garfield love interest must look like, no exceptions.
One wonders how Peter Hewitt could have messed up a comic so perfectly suited for the big screen (movies have three acts, and Garfield usually has three panels: HELLO??). Perhaps a British director just can't tap in to the quintessentially American spirit of Garfield. Perhaps Peter Hewitt just got the job because he's in some way related to Jennifer Love Hewitt. I don't know the answers. But I do know two things. One, we true fans can only hope that the franchise rights revert to Jim Davis so that we can reboot with the movie that Garfield deserves. Two, this film should have been released on a Monday.
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