The world is in love with Garfield. He's everywhere. T-shirts proclaim, "I'm not overweight, I'm undertall." His whiskery chops leer from car windows, mugs and lunchboxes. And everyone's glued to the cartoons, The Simpsons not yet anywhere to be seen. It's the perfect time for a movie to cash in on his popularity. It's 1985.
Trouble is, time has marched on. And chances are, you've moved on too, meaning a big, fat question mark hangs over this release: can the orange feline still drag the masses into the multiplex? If the quality of this big-screen adventure is anything to go by, the answer is a resounding ""No"".
Unless, that is, you're under five years of age. For while checking Garfield's usual tics off the list (loves lasagne, hates Mondays) provides nostalgic adults with one or two genuinely chucklesome moments, Peter Hewitt's film soon descends directly to playground level. Out goes anything passing for wit; in comes a dodgy CG cat, physical comedy and a sickly, chaste love affair between Breckin Meyer's moggy owner and Jennifer Love Hewitt's comely vet.
In fact, so committed is Garfield to making the little 'uns laugh, the film forgets the golden rule laid out by the likes of Finding Nemo and Shrek: Appeal To All Audiences. Instead, we get a thin plot about dog-napping and Garfield's subsequent rescue mission, the storyline little more than a peg on which to hang moral lessons about being the bestest of friends and looking after those around you. Yawn.
Of course, Bill Murray's perfectly suited tonsular stylings - laconic and sarcastic - - could have rescued the day if only he'd a: been given free rein; or b: been at all bothered. Rather, he's simply content to take the money and slum, sticking to the lame script even when confronted with such irksome one-liners ("You had me, a chick magnet... And now you've picked up a tick magnet!""). Mind you, it's hard to blame him for being bored by the whole thing - - 10 minutes in and you'll be joining him in his catnap. Make no mistake: this is kitty litter.
Neutered into a laugh-lite kiddie flick, Garfield won't win over old fans or create many new ones. He should stick to car windows.