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'Garfield' more tabby than tiger

The second movie based on the talking cat has its moments, but it needs something to grab audiences.

Published June 15, 2006

For a kiddie flick, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties sure prompts a lot of questions.

Which segment of the target audience, for example, will warm to the sassy tabby's offhanded reference to Hannibal Lecter's favorite meal?

The tubby CGI cat, using the voice of Bill Murray in extra-smarmy mode, can talk, just like his British doppelganger, Prince (Tim Curry). So can the other domestic and barnyard animals, voiced by the likes of Bob Hoskins, Sharon Osbourne, Jane Horrocks, Richard E. Grant and Rhys Ifans. Then why doesn't Garfield's sometime nemesis, the dimwitted dachshund/terrier pooch Odie, have the power of speech?

If not for the sights of London, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament, what appeal would the movie hold for adult chaperones of the tykes likely to ask to see the film?

Wait. I'll answer that last one: Murray is perfectly cast as the slacking cat; his laidback, wise-acre personality is a great match for Garfield, the kitty born nearly 30 years ago as a comic strip. The feline subsequently was reborn as a book, a Saturday morning cartoon and, in 2004, a movie star.

A Tail of Two Kitties, a new twist on a trading-places plot dating at least to Mark Twain, has all-American lazybones Garfield accidentally masquerading as the heir of a palatial English estate, and the castle's real owner, Prince, inadvertently living the life of Garfield.

The action largely takes place in London because Garfield's loyal owner, Jon (Breckin Meyer) has gone there to surprise his vet girlfriend Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who's in Great Britain to deliver a speech.

Romance is on the program, and so are the evil machinations of Lord Dargis (Billy Connolly), the human heir to that estate. He's on an ill-fated mission to make sure nothing gets in the way of his plans to remake the place into a condo-littered resort area.

It's all mildly funny, with enough slapstick and general silliness to provoke grins and giggles among the under-10 set. It's hardly going to give the summer kid-movie competition - led by Cars - anything to worry about.

Grade: B-

Director: Tim Hill

Cast: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Billy Connolly, Ian Abercrombie, Roger Rees and the voices of Bill Murray, Tim Curry, Bob Hoskins, Sharon Osbourne, Jane Leeves, Jane Horrocks, Richard E. Grant and Rhys Ifans.

Screenplay: Joel Cohen, Jim Davis and Alec Sokolow

Rating: PG; barnyard humor

Running time: 95 min.



[Last modified June 14, 2006, 13:32:04]

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