You may or may not be aware of the fact that Garfield and his pals have been the stars of a trio of computer generated feature films beginning with this, 2007’s Garfield Gets Real (followed by 2008’s Fun Fest and 2009’s Pet Force). It should be noted that these films are in no way related to the pair of live action/CG hybrids Garfield The Movie and Garfield a Tale of Two Kitties.
Get Real is a 74-minute direct-to-DVD release that tells of the frumpy, overweight housecat Garfield (Frank Welker) who, as is expected of the character, is tired of doing the same routine day in and day out. A working stiff, he finds he needs a break from the daily grind of showing up at the comic studio to make a three-frame strip for the daily newspapers, a process rather similar to being photographed.
Seeking excitement outside of hassling his owner Jon Arbuckle (Wally Wingert) or kicking Odie (Gregg Berger) around, he discovers of a portal that can teleport individuals directly into John Malkovich’s head. No wait, wrong movie. Garfield does however discover a portal to the “real world” within the studio where he shoots the comic strip and, after some deliberation, decides to take the plunge hence absconding his comfortable and pampered life in cartoon world.
It is here in our world that Garfield discovers that felines don’t enjoy the same benefits as cartoon cats. Rather than being an indulged celeb with a cushy job, Garfield discovers that here is simply a street cat in a world full of uncompassionate humans, hungry for his next meal and trying not to become dog chow. Making matters worse, muscular duo Hale and Hardy (Berger and Welker) will replace the Garfield comic strip if he is not back in Cartoon World in time to produce the next day's strip.
While in no danger of stealing an Academy Award away from some other 2007 worthy candidate, the story is certainly passable enough to build an hour and 15-minute animated film around. Never mind that this plot would have worked so much better in the CG/ live action hybrid environment (after all, the story tells of a cartoon cat that enters the real world), we do get a real world that is still pretty cartoony itself all factors considering here.
Borrowing a bit of the Toy Story (or more recently Wreck-It-Ralph) formula, Jim Davis wrote in a very clever element whereby the comic strips we read in the daily paper are the result of a whole society happening unbeknownst to humanity. Rather than our toys or video game characters living life behind our collective backs, in this case we’re shown a movie studio with sets and props used to shoot our daily comic strips complete with director, photographer and so on. Scenes are set up, images snapped and then transferred to a laptop where Betty (Audrey Wasilewski) assembles the three-frame strip which is then sent off for publication in the paper. The characters then return to the studio to watch completed product on the big screen just like a movie premiere. In this sense, it’s neat to play with the concept of our beloved characters being actors/ celebrities in their world.
What is a little odd, however, is that we’re shown the cartoon characters can somehow observe our reactions to their performance while reading the paper. Little bit of a creepy concept to imagine next time you’re flipping through the paper, the entire cartoon world could be watching, unbeknownst to you, your every move on a movie screen. But alas such nitpicks pale in comparison to the greater crimes being committed here.
About the biggest complaint I have with the piece is its pacing, which makes the 74-minute runtime seem to drag on unnecessarily long. Curiously this isn’t a result of unnecessary plot threads or filler material so much as individual scenes are assembled into a prose with a casual, almost meandering way about it. If kids tire of the visuals, it is possible they’ll lose interest in the plot structure as well, especially in the middle.
Speaking of visuals, Pixar need not worry about closing up shop but for 2007 CG standards coupled to a direct-to-DVD budget, 20th Century Fox should still be pretty happy with what they have here. Character models are pretty spot on to their comic strip counterparts and the textures/ color pallet fit perfectly with what one would expect in turning the 2D property into full 3D. The models move a little stiffly but mouth flaps are spot on throughout.
The DVD comes packed with extras, the type of which one usually associates with the Blu-Ray, DVD, Ultraviolet combo packs of late among these Pencils, Paws and Ink: Creating the Garfield Comic Strip, which gives an inside look at how Davis creates the iconic strip for newspapers each day. Jim Davis: Raw & Un-Cat, The Animation Process, Legends: Working Together, Bloopers: Voices in our Heads, Finding Your Voice and Animating from Korea. You also net two decent Garfield-themed DVD-ROM games.
In all, it’s easy to recommend this one, especially these days as the price has relegated the DVD to the under $5 discount bin. A robust extra features set adds to the value and the film itself is a decent enough romp. The pacing issues seem to have been resolved in the subsequent CG releases and even the Garfield character himself becomes more ironed out over time (no so depressed/ full of complaints). A shame the few cute moments along the way couldn’t fully atone for the weak pacing.