Dir: Peter Hewitt. US 2004.80mins

He is one of the mostrecognisable comic strip characters in the world today - a fat, slovenly,self-satisfied but lovable orange furball named Garfield - and he is the latesttwo-dimensional creature to star in his own live action/computer generatedfilm. But this fat cat won't generate half the box office revenues of a certaingreen ogre who has been dominating movie screens for the past few weeks -partially because Garfield The Movie is aimed exclusively at tykes underthe age of 10 (maybe even under five), rather than at multi-generationalaudiences. While an acceptable destination for kids too young to enjoy Shrek, ancillary markets are where thisfilm will make most of its money.

The film finds Garfield, thecontented master of his own small universe - specifically, the home and yard ofhis owner Jon (Meyer) - experiencing the first twinges of sibling rivalry. Notjust twinges, but a full-blown attack. It seems that Garfield's vet, and Jon'ssecret romantic interest, Liz Wilson (Hewitt, presumably no relation to thedirector), gives Jon a lovable, if somewhat dim-witted dog named Odie (Tyler, ahalf dachsund/half cairn terrier whose sister, Chloe, stands in for him incertain scenes).

The jealous Garfield locksOdie out of the house. Being new to the ways of domesticity, the dog runs aftera truck, gets lost, and is eventually abducted by the nefarious Happy Chapman(Tobolowsky), a local celebrity greedy for fame. Instead of being happy that heis once again king of his domain, Garfield finds himself feeling guilty andsets off to rescue Odie.

Why the film-makers botheredto enlist the voice services of Bill Murray for their self-indulgent hero is amystery, since the film's very unsophisticated humour is geared solely at youngchildren. Murray never taps into his own, famous persona, which presumablywould have been the selling point in attracting adults.

Neither Meyer nor actressHewitt is called upon to stretch their talents here; rather, they turn inappropriately bland performances that won't leave much of an impression on kidsone way or another.

Children in the audiencewill respond more enthusiastically to the various animal characters, all ofwho, save Garfield, are played by real animals and are voiced by such actors asAlan Cumming, Debra Messing and Jimmy Kimmel (Odie is the only animal characterwho does not speak).

Here again, however, theanimals lack the distinctive personalities of such truly magnetic screenpersonalities as Donkey and Puss in Boots - or even the appeal of DrDoolittle's less remarkable but still enjoyable menagerie.

The Guinness Book of WorldRecords claims that Garfield is read by some 263 million people, makingit the most widely read syndicated comic strip in the world. Certainly the variousanimated television programs in which the feline has starred have done well.But were those audiences really demanding a Garfield movie' Nothing here setsthe screen on fire for anybody except, perhaps, the most die-hard fans of thestrip.

Prod co: Davis Entertainment
US dist:
Twentieth Century Fox
Intl dist:
John Davis
Exec prod:
Neil Machlis
Joel Cohen & AlecSokolow, from the comic strip Garfield, created by Jim Davis
Dean Cundey
Prod des:
Alexander Hammond
Peter Berger
Christophe Beck
Main cast:
Breckin Meyer,Jennifer Love Hewitt, Bill Murray,Stephen Tobolowsky