A David Bowers Film
After a recent run of sub par animated feature films, I really went into this one with low expectations. After all, I reasoned, 20th Century-Fox has decided to release this one straight-to-DVD after only a brief appearance on cable television.
In spite of my clouded prospects (or perhaps due to them), this one actually turned out much, much better than expected. Is there danger of mistaking it for the next Pixar or DreamWorks mega hit? Probably not, although realistically speaking, the visuals are easily on par. The source material, after all, has been around for 30 years now and the CGI animated feature film medium is an absolutely irresistible place for popular cartoons to venture into after decades of 2D drawings and cartoon attempts. All factors considering, this film succeeds in many of the key areas that typically separate the entries of the “big boys” from the direct-to-DVD fodder. But before we get into that, let’s recap the tale, shall we?
Proving that the title is no mere clever pun, this film opens with Garfield and Jon in the employ of Cartoon World, a studio that produces comic strips by filming the cartoon characters in action. Somewhere in here there is irony in the notion of videoing a computer-generated image with the hopes of turning it into a 2D black and white comic but I digress.
It's a special time at Cartoon World, because the annual Fun Fest talent competition is fast approaching, and everyone in the city (even the mute Odie) want in on the action. The grand prize, it turns out, is top billing in the newspaper’s Funnies section and with that the spoils of popularity.
Since he wins the event year after year, Garfield half-heartedly prepares a stand-up routine with his girlfriend Arlene despite her incessant suggesting that they devise a dance routine this year.
Perhaps his victory would be assured even without much preparation except that a newcomer to Cartoon World, Ramone of Ramone's Rough Riders, sets his sights on Arlene and just so happens to be a master of the tango.
Realizing that he’s no longer the only solid act in town, Garfield sets off on an epic quest to secure mystical (and possible mythical) “funny water” said to be enchant its drinker with the gift of comedy.
If this all sounds a bit convoluted, rest assured, I thought the same thing going in. And this oddity lasts throughout the first quarter of the film. A flimsy plot, weak dialog and an overly grumpy, cynical and sometimes just plain nasty Garfield don’t help matters either. However, the key to maximizing the overall experience is to take heart in the ideal that things will get better by the end- and that they do.
The “fun fest” gimmick is revealed to be more of a plot device to motivate the true story here, which, not unlike Kung-Fu Panda, is a tale of discovering the potential within each of us through mystical training with an Eastern Philosophy flavor.
The humor starts gain traction in the segment where Garfield and Arlene reenact several Hollywood scenes in preparation for the contest and really continues with consistency till the conclusion. Of course there are a few misses along the way (jokes based on the phrase “poopy-head” and in what can only be described as a major gaffe in having Garfield tell his competing friend “you suck”).
Again though, questionable dialog for young kids aside, the visuals are downright spectacular with so many layers of rendered goodness going on that some of the segments have to be freeze-framed to be fully appreciated.
Extras are essentially nonexistent here, consisting only of two DVD-Rom games (although there is a cool little booklet in the DVD case in which writer Jim Davis shares some of his favorite Garfield strips throughout the decades).
In all, this one succeeds in the end but not without a few hiccups. The visuals alone will keep youngsters and most adults enamored and the humor (once it builds momentum) is quite serviceable for both young and old. The dialog could stand to use a little polish (and perhaps editing) but the experience is a recommended one.
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