Garfield the Movie: A Failure in Adapted Characters

An analysis on how the Garfield movie fails to represent the characters it is adapting, especially the women, by removing their best characteristics.

Michael Morgan
Michael Morgan
October 1, 2021

It is universally known that the 2004 Garfield movie is not a good one. It had a lot of potential with its interesting characters and the comic strips sense of humor, though neither was taken into account, especially the characters. Perfect examples of which are the leading ladies, Arlene and Liz.

Garfield the Movie: A Failure in Adapted Characters

After being introduced to the titular character, his owner Jon Arbuckle, and Nermal, the audience is then introduced to Arlene. Even though she (and every other character in the film) looks nothing like how she did in the original comic and her real live action cat clashes with the questionable CGI Garfield, she is actually written well. Garfield tries hitting on her and her response is “Go play in traffic." When Garfield does say something legitimately nice, which impresses Arlene, he was actually talking about a pie, angering her. This scene shows just a small example of Garfield and Arlene’s relationship from the comic. Garfield being very full of himself, thinking he can impress anybody, and Arlene not taking it. She is essentially the only character from the comics to not put up with any of Garfield’s crap. In other words, those two were made for each other.

Now, I know what you’re thinking “The scene you just described doesn’t sound so bad. What’s wrong with it?” Well, the only problem with this scene is... it’s not in the movie. What I just described was a deleted scene. Now, when Arlene truly enters into the film, she has no introduction to the point where her name isn’t even mentioned, leaving viewers with a bad impression of her character. However, Liz Wilson has a big problem of her own.

Garfield the Movie: A Failure in Adapted Characters

While the comics today depict Jon and Liz as a couple, this film was released in 2004, several years before they got together. Before then, Liz was a cynic. She was sarcastic and wanted nothing to do with Jon. She was a foil to his dorky antics. However, in the movie not only is Jon a bland, blank slate of a character, Liz is given the same treatment.

It is more evident with her due to the fact that she is missing all the characteristics that made up her personality. Instead she is just the generic love interest for Jon, found in most kids movies because it seems that studios only rely on focus groups that supposedly enjoy these tropes, even though I’ve never met a person in real life who does. She even goes so far to admit that she had a crush on Jon, something Liz would never do. She would instead be annoyed by Jon’s mannerisms.

Garfield the Movie: A Failure in Adapted Characters

Overall, Garfield: The Movie is a failure when it comes to characterization, to the point where it is clear that Bill Murray seems to be the only one trying when voicing Garfield. Arlene and Liz are the perfect examples when it comes to failure in characters and when you fail to give the women in your movie character, you that can come across as disrespectful. While I’m sure that was not the intention of the filmmakers, it proves one must be careful and always give your characters more to do.