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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

I knew I was in trouble when I entered the theater at the Essex Cinemas to see Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties and found only one other person there. And I was late. The credits were beginning, so it wasn’t as if the crowd would be streaming in at any moment. Did I miss the memo? Had Garfield been named “Bomb of the Year” before it even opened?

I’ll admit I didn’t exactly hear about the mandate that 20th Century Fox must have that led them to believe there was a crying need for a sequel to 2004’s Garfield: The Movie, but here it was, complete with original stars Breckin Meyer (Rebound) and Jennifer Love Hewitt (tv’s The Ghost Whisperer), reprising their respective roles as Garfield’s master Jon Arbuckle and Jon’s veterinarian love interest Liz. Back too, in vocal form is Bill Murray (Broken Flowers) as Garfield, sounding every bit as fat and lazy as he did in the original.

This installment, for no particular reason, moves the action to Great Britain, where Liz has gone to speak before a conclave of veterinarians from around the world. Jon has followed in a desperate bid to surprise her and propose, unaware until his arrival that Garfield has dumped Jon’s clothes and taken their place along with his dimbulb sidekick, the terrier Odie, in the luggage. Okay, so it is a stretch. He got through customs, got through whatever x-raying procedures goes on these days in a post 9/11 world, and it’s not until he is in his hotel room that the cat and dog pop out to announce their presence. So where is this headed? Straight to the sewer, literally.

In a second story we learn that the mistress of Carlyle Castle has just died and much to the chagrin of her nephew, Dargis, played by Billy Connelly (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) doing his best to channel John Cleese (who obviously wouldn’t reduce himself to this level of crap) is livid when he learns from the attorney at hand that Ms. Carlyle has left the estate and all her holdings to her faithful feline companion, Prince the 14th. I’ll bet you can guess already that Prince is an exact doppelganger of a certain American lasagna-eating
pussy that just happens to be in the neighborhood. Within the day, Dargis has sent Prince sailing down the river to London in a picnic basket and into the sewer, where, as luck would have it, he is found escaping from a drain by Jon, who has been out looking for a MIA Garfield. Naturally, the real Garfield is only a few blocks away and is absconded with by Mr. Smithee (Ian Abercrombie, best known for his reoccurring role as Elaine’s cranky boss Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld). Smithee is the caretaker of Carlyle Castle, and has come to London at Dargis’ request, mostly to get the elderly man out of the while he makes a move on the estate by claiming to the lawyers that Prince is presumed dead and so he is now the next heir to the fortune. What Smithee doesn’t know is that Dargis plans to sell the ancestral home of the Carlyle family and turn the palace into a spa and the grounds into a condominium development.

Complications arise, of course, when Smithee arrives with “Prince” and the attorneys nix the
transfer of ownership. So Dargis sets in play another trap to kill the hairy heir, unaware that this “Prince” is the streetwise and oh-so-clever Garfield.

Messes ensue, and in the tradition of the Home Alone series, Garfield and Dargis play a crazy game of cat-and-mouse, often switching roles back and forth, as they reek havoc throughout the castle.

Eventually the real Prince, voiced by The Rocky Horror Picture Show
’s Tim Curry, finds his way home and he and Garfield, like all movie and television look-alikes, from the two Patty Dukes to the two Hayley Mills and right up to the two Lindsey Lohans, they put aside their initial dislike for one another and team up to demolish the common enemy.

Why anyone would find this remotely original or entertaining is a mystery that a far better CGI-manufactured character like Scooby Doo would need help solving. Obviously Meyer, Hewitt, and Murray were no doubt contractually obligated to make a sequel if the studio demanded it, but besides Billy Connelly being on-screen, Bob Hoskins, Tim Curry, Jane Leeves, Sharon Osbourne, Richard E. Grant, and Jane Horrocks are among the voices of the various barnyard animals that inhabit the stables and grounds of the Castle. Did they not get a script, or were they just hoping it would turn out funnier on film than it did on paper?

I‘m not going to say that nobody won’t enjoy Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, but I’m guessing that if you are over the age of six it may seem like the longest 78 minutes you’ve spent outside of detention. Take it from someone who has a house full of pussycats, this one smells like a litterbox left untended for a week in the July sun. If, God Forbid, there must be a Garfield 3, let it at least include something we can all enjoy, like Garfield getting neutered, or at least flea-dipped for your pleasure.

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