In my original review of 2004's "Garfield: The Movie
," I wrote: "The vast majority of the comedy is of the broad physical variety, with a lot of burps for good measure. Fortunately, and mercifully, there isn't a fart in sight." That statement doesn't hold true with "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties," a chintzy-looking sequel that signals its inferiority to the lazy but harmless original by resorting to a fart joke within the first thirty minutes and tons of moldy "Home Alone"-style pratfalls that come two decades too late. In furthering the cinematic adventures of the fat, lazy, lasagna-loving feline, director Tim Hill (2001's "Max Keeble's Big Move
") has righted none of the past movie's shortcomings. He has also done a disservice to Jim Davis' sarcastic comic strip and charming animated ventures. After watching this bland throwaway of a big-screen treatment, Davis shouldn't be surprised if he has trouble recognizing the characters he created.
Largely set in the United Kingdom but so indistinct that it suspiciously looks like it was mostly shot on Los Angeles soundstages, "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" transplants cat Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray), daft dog Odie and human master Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer) from the comforts of their suburban cul de sac to no less than London, England. Jon hopes to surprise lovely veterinarian girlfriend Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who has traveled abroad for an animal-related event, by showing up and proposing to her. His plans are sidetracked, however, out of initial nervousness and then out of suspicions that Garfield is not quite acting like himself.
In actuality, that's because Garfield is really Prince (voiced by Tim Curry), snooty kitty royalty who has unintentionally switched places with his doppelganger. So, as Prince struggles to get used to his new identity and commoner surroundings, Garfield is let loose in a sprawling castle estate recently left to Prince in his wealthy owner's will. Next in line to inherit the property is the conniving Lord Dargis (Billy Connolly), who is determined to get rid of the furball standing in his way by any means necessary.
Because "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" is more of the same, only with a change in location and half the charm, my mind wandered to random irksome observations. For example, when Garfield jumps off a bridge and onto a boat passing by below him, he falls splat on his stomach. Since he's a cat, though, shouldn't he land on his feet? Granted, the feline in question is CG-created and not exactly the poster child for animal realism, but it would be nice to see even a minor attempt to portray him with behavioral characteristics inherent in his own species that don't revolve around two of the deadly sins (sloth and gluttony). The same goes for Jon Arbuckle's treatment of his pets; he is so nonchalant about discovering Garfield and Odie wandering the streets of England alone at one point that he might as well be standing in his own backyard chatting them up about grass fertilizer. Is he the loving owner of these two domesticated animals, or really a deadbeat who neglects their safety? On another note, with the country of England at Jon and Liz's disposal and any number of scenic places to sight-see, the best director Tim Hill can come up with is for them to go to a random pub playing sports on the television set. Say what? So much for using a hefty studio budget to one's advantage.
When Garfield's and Prince's identities are swapped, what fun do screenwriters Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (2003's "Cheaper by the Dozen
") have with this fish-out-of-water scenario? Apparently, so little that all that can be remembered less than twenty-four hours after seeing the movie is Prince learning to eat lasagna and sleeping in the hotel bed, and Garfield making friends with a group of nearby farm animals and singing a boring rendition of the theme song to "The Jeffersons." If not for the natural acidic wit of Billy Connolly (2004's "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
"), vigorously munching up the scenery as the villainous Lord Dargis, the film wouldn't even be sporadically amusing.
"Garfield: The Movie
" was at a loss for originality, but it did have an underlying sweetness to it in the way Garfield and Odie bonded while Jon and Liz fell in love. "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" is simply treading water, hoping to cash in on a mediocre predecessor that got lucky and made more money at the box office than it deserved. The caring relationship between Garfield and Jon has been diminished to an afterthought. Odie is barely there at all. In keeping with unnecessary sequelitis, the locale has been changed to an exotic location with little rhyme or reason. Human actors Breckin Meyer (2005's "Herbie: Fully Loaded
") and Jennifer Love Hewitt (2002's "The Tuxedo
") reprise their roles of Jon and Liz and are left to dream about better parts in their futures. And Bill Murray (2005's "Broken Flowers
") puts on a game face as the self-deprecating voice of Garfield, his only returning reward being a paycheck to match his character's hefty physical size.
Kids of ages in the single digits will like "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" because they by and large fall for anything involving potty humor and animals that talk, but there is no clear-cut lesson for them to be taught this time and no chances for their developing imaginations to be expanded. Meanwhile, potential adult viewers are left out in the cold again, despite being the ones who most fondly remember Garfield when he used to be popular in the 1980s. Unfortunately, without a worthwhile script to reinvigorate the sassy comic strip feline, he is destined to remain an artifact of years past. The Garfield in these shoddy movies is nothing but an impostor of the once-beloved real thing.