Garfield as Himself Review
The original fat cat, Garfield, was Jim Davis' follow-up to his unsuccessful and barely remembered Gnorm Gnat and in listening to his advisors, realised that maybe insects aren't funny. Strangely, though, in Davis' rush to engage his commercial interests, he seems to have left out the humour in Garfield as well, leaving it as twenty-six years in which, well, nothing happens but the same old eating, scratching and hanging from the rear window of hatchbacks from having suckers on his feet. Well, so you'd think if all that you'd ever seen of Garfield was the merchandise, of which there is much more than either the strip or the animated shows.
Three episodes are included on this DVD, all of which are described below:
Here Comes Garfield: When Garfield and Odie break into their neighbours' garden, a dog warden is called and the dim-witted but happy Odie is locked up in the city pound. Garfield, who was to blame for Odie's lifting, feels only a little guilty but is lost without his dopey buddy and resolves to get Odie home.
Garfield On The Town: When Jon decides that Garfield needs to be taken to the vet, the fat cat protests but is eventually dragged out to the car. Along the way, Garfield falls out of the car and watches as Jon drives off without him, leaving him on his own and feeling, well, hungry. As Jon plans on placing an advert for his lost cat, Garfield smells something familiar...the old Italian restaurant where he was born. Still living there is his mother and cousins but when some alley cats attack, will Garfield fight back or keep his head down and think nice thoughts including those of lasagna.
Garfield Gets A Life: Rather, Jon tries to get a life when he realises that he is actually very boring. Able to count no one but Odie and Garfield as friends, Jon sets off to find a woman but after realising that his chat up lines are as old as his shirts and that disco is no longer in, he enrolls in Lorenzo?s School for the Personality Impaired. But as any woman who loves Jon soon realises, loving Garfield is just as important.
Odd how stoner humour drifts down to kids sooner or later. The bright colours, the frequent lapses into silence and the music that laps into scenes, whilst a constant in psychedelic rock, drift into animated shows like Garfield and Peanuts with a frequency that will be surprising to anyone who's kept corner shops in business with the purchase of King Size Rizla and rolling tobacco. But where Peanuts really did have something of the counterculture about it, notably in naming a character Woodstock after the three-day festival of peace and love in upstate New York, Garfield was a more cynical exploitation of the trail blazed by Peanuts with Jim Davis looking more at the merchandising of his product than the actual script. Even today, it is said that Davis spends no more than a few days a month planning the comic strips whereas every working day occupies his time with reviewing the available merchandise and its advertising. Compared to Bill Watterson who wrote Calvin And Hobbes for ten years until his retirement and who refused, despite many offers, to put his characters on mugs, T-shirts and toys, Davis has pimped his creation on almost every product that could support a doodle of his three-character cast of Jon, Odie and Garfield.
Davis' intention all along with Garfield was on the merchandise and the strip was only a way to make dollars off the back of Garfield products. Garfield is deliberately out of place and time and Davis worked to create a recurring set of jokes - lasagna, eating, being fat, etc. - around which Garfield wisecracks, creating a character who can slip into almost every part of the world but who never really feels at home in any of them. Where Calvin And Hobbes were sublime, often wildly funny and with a strong identity, Garfield is a blank with such a thin character as to never really feel as though he has a place in his own comic strip.
Not, though, that Garfield is actually funny unless you find it impossible to tire of jokes that never actually attempt to say anything other than Garfield being a fat cat who eats lasagna, Odie being a dumb dog who chases his tail and Jon being, well, a good-natured but ineffectual owner of both. Such desperately thin material is not helped by these three episodes of the cartoon for whilst there is some fine physical humour to appeal to pre-schoolers, notably Garfield's playing with his midnight snacks in Garfield As Himself, Lorenzo Music's voicing of Garfield soon grates.
Anyone who has grown up with Disney will realise the importance of the work that both the animators and the voice artist put into a character. Would we remember Baloo from The Jungle Book were it not for Phil Harris' laid back acting? Or Snow White without Adriana Caselotti's innocent voice? Or Kuzco without David Spade's bratty whining? The main problem with just watching Garfield and ignoring Jim Davis' is that what Lorenzo Music is saying often bears absolutely no relation to what Garfield is being animated to do and, similarly, the method by which Music is dubbed into the show sounds little different from having him in the room with you as he insists on ad-libbing his own weak and obvious dialogue over the cartoon. The rest of the characters, Jon Arbuckle included, are even less well developed than Garfield and over all three episodes, the small set of jokes wears thin.
Looking at the 1m33s Look Inside Garfield - The Movie that is included on this DVD, it's obvious that Jim Davis got the film that his character deserved in which a badly animated CG Garfield wiggles his well-cushioned rear between actors who've already bounced twice on the way to the dumper whilst still in their early-twenties. Davis' beaming face, lit up with the thought of yet more revenue from the movie merchandise, says much about the lack of care he now takes over the comic strip and with these three badly written episodes, it's clearly a situation that dated back to only a few years after the creation of the original strip.
As you would expect, had you ever seen this on television, the animation is rudimentary but well-matched to stories that seem to be padded out to fill the twenty-three minutes or so that they last for. The picture quality is fine, however, with little noise that's obvious over the occasionally scratchy, hand-drawn animation.
Garfield As Himself, though only presented with a 1.0 Mono soundtrack, sounds fine with little background noise during the periods of silence that break up the episodes.
Give the release in the last year of Garfield - The Movie, the only extra here is a short Inside Look (1m33s, 1.78 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo) at the making of the movie, which interviews a couple of the stars, including Jennifer Love Hewitt, the director and the special effects supervisor.
Never as charming as Peanuts nor as subtle a mix of adult emotions and childhood fears and excitement as Calvin And Hobbes, Garfield was never anything more than Jim Davis greedily jumping onto merchandising rather than creating something of lasting worth. Clearly Davis had little interest in making these episodes and you ought to pay him exactly what he's owed for his lack of effort by ignoring this and future releases.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 12:26:12