Computer-generated imagery has a solid track record of representing the worst part of terrible movies. In theory, at least, CGI opens up a thrilling new world of possibility for filmmakers, providing them with the tools to render onscreen anything their imaginations can conjure up. When it comes to creating characters, however, CGI is generally a crutch for those who've given the world Jar-Jar Binks, Lost In Space's chattering space-monkey, Van Helsing's monster mash-up, Kangaroo Jack, and two live-action Scooby Doo movies. Somehow, CGI bangs into a new low with Garfield: The Movie, the horrifically misguided feature-film adaptation of the comic strip that made Jim Davis' lasagna-munching misanthrope an icon of Monday-dreading secretaries the world over.
The popularity of Davis' strip represents the ultimate triumph of mediocrity, but even the cartoonist's competent hackwork deserves better than this. Uneventful enough to inspire nostalgia for the '80s era when seemingly every comedy had an obligatory diamond-smuggling subplot, Garfield centers on dog Odie's arrival at the home of the film's titular feline. Garfield initially views the interloper as a threat, especially after Odie prances around to a Black Eyed Peas song at a dog show, a triumph that somehow qualifies as front-page news.
This remarkable feat attracts the attention of a sinister, bumbling local television personality (Stephen Tobolowsky) who makes his living parading cute pets on camera, a perverse career choice for someone who despises animals. Tobolowsky kidnaps the dog, prompting a rescue mission from Garfield and a story that's little more than a maddening string of mile-wide plot holes. For example, Tobolowsky possesses a fantastical collar that can presumably turn any dog into a souped-up Rin Tin Tin. Why bother stealing someone else's dog, especially a minor celebrity, when the collar seems to be doing all the work? At least they got the voice right. Bill Murray lends the film's hero—who looks disturbingly like a mangy, sentient stuffed animal—his trademark slacker Zen, but the film strands him in a harrowing comic Sahara from which no life can emerge.