Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

(2006) * Pg
80 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: Tim Hill. Cast: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Breckin Meyer, Bill Murray, Lucy Davis, Billy Connolly.

The dancing digital furball with the Bill Murray purr is back in Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. Murray's clock-punching, check-cashing reaches a new low, but that's old news. I found it more disturbing that cinematographer Dean Cundey, who shot the first film, would return to sell out his Who Framed Roger Rabbit expertise as this film's second-unit director. Perhaps Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties will be a stepping-stone for Cundey to direct his own, undoubtedly better films.

This tiresome sequel probably should have been subtitled The Prince and the Pooper or perhaps The Prisoner of Rear-End-a, after stories it resembles (if one squints). This time, you see, city cat Garfield—on vacation in London—gets accidentally switched with country-estate cat Prince (voice of Tim Curry), causing all manner of shenanigans. Since Prince has only just inherited the estate, jealous Lord Dargis (Billy Connolly) wants to steal—by hook or by crook—what he believes he's owed. Meanwhile, Garfield's hapless owner Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer) makes puppy-dog eyes at his hopeful intended, Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt).

Screenwriters Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow and director Tim Hill lean heavily on fart and pee jokes. You know, I don't remember the fart and pee jokes in The Wizard of Oz or the old Disney classics or the Muppet movies. Crotch-biting, of course, comes from a long tradition. Hmm. Actually, the best (and worst) sequence is a ripoff of the mirror sequence from bona fide comedy classic Duck Soup, but first you have to get through a lasagna-baking sequence, not one but two "formerly known as Prince" jokes, and Murray singing "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Movin' On Up." Good luck with that.

Anyway, this eighty-minute sequel seems twice as long, as the self-centered, food-motivated, destructive, nasty, and increasingly unfunny cat waxes enthusiastic about lasagna and annoys a parcel of sub-Babe talking barnyard animals, including a bulldog voiced by Bob Hoskins. Why should we like this cat? Because he's fun-loving? No, because he always has a conversion two-thirds of the way through the movie. The "heart" kicks in as Garfield realizes he's perceived as "a buffoon": "I've been such a stupid, selfish cat."

By that time, you'll be well and truly rooting for poor Connolly (who gets quite a workout in the knockabout climax) to murder the fat cat. Connolly, Roger Rees, Ian Abercrombie, and Lucy Davis of The Office (no relation to Jim Davis, creator of the Garfield comic-strip) had to show up to the set, but at least Hoskins, Curry, Richard E. Grant, Rhys Ifans, Jane Leeves, Jane Horrocks, Vinnie Jones, Jim Piddock, Sharon Osbourne, and Roscoe Lee Browne only had to report to a recording studio. Happily, you're under no obligation to show up. Run, don't walk, away from the theatre.

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