The "Garfield" comic strip hasn't been funny in at least 15 years, but Bill Murray rescues the movie adaptation from the same fate by capturing, in his purringly petulant voice performance, that indolent, impudent charm the fat tabby had in his heyday.
In the movie Garfield is a CGI-rendered creation with those band-shell ears and that wily, persnickety smile that could never be found in a real feline -- and the animation is well integrated into the real world he inhabits, where his unlucky-in-love owner Jon Arbuckle (Brekin Meyer) has just been persuaded by a pretty veterinarian Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) to adopt a stray puppy named Odie.
For some reason (probably related to budget) director Peter Hewitt (no relation to Jennifer) chose to make Odie a rather nondescript real dog instead of the giraffe-necked, google-eyed, tongue-wagging dope created by cartoonist Jim Davis. But the pets' relationship remains the same, which is to say Garfield resents Odie for obliviously honing in on his lap time and his turf.
Although when his new rival gets lost -- then kidnapped by a tacky TV pet-trick showman (Stephen Tobolowsky) -- Garfield feels guilty because he let Odie out of the house, and the cat reluctantly mounts a rescue mission that bears more than a passing resemblance to the plot of "Toy Story 2."
At the heart of "Garfield: The Movie" is an innocuous, minimal-effort kiddie-flick critter script with one-dimensional human characters, a handful of funny sight gags, and a few more good lines ("Odie's on TV -- and he's wearing lederhosen!" Garfield gasps at Jon, who of course, doesn't speak cat and can't understand him) than bad lines (Garfield says "Got Milk?" and it gets a rim shot).
But Murray gives the picture enough punch with his creative caterwauling that the end product, despite some sad efforts to make it seem modern and hip, really does recall the comic strip's early spirit.