Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 28, 2006)
Occasionally a movie that enjoyed moderate success spawns a massive hit sequel. Look at the original Austin Powers movie. It earned a modest $53 million, but its sequels – 1999’s The Spy Who Shagged Me and 2002’s Goldmember - each took in more than $200 million. That’s a remarkable improvement over the first flick’s unspectacular box office performance.
I’m sure those responsible for the Garfield franchise hoped similar growth would occur there. 2004’s Garfield: The Movie took in a passable $75 million. That figure impressed no one, but it was enough to encourage the studio to greenlight a sequel: 2006’s A Tail of Two Kitties.
Unfortunately for the suits at Fox, Kitties failed to expand the franchise. Indeed, I’d bet it killed the potential for more Garfield movies. Kitties made a sad $28 million, a figure that seems unlikely to promote more Garfield offerings.
And that’s fine with me. The first flick was fairly weak, and the second does nothing to improve upon its failures. Here Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer) plans to propose to girlfriend Liz Wilson (Jennifer Love Hewitt) but gets undercut by her news that she’s immediately flying to London to speak at a big conference. Undeterred, Jon decides to fly to England and complete his proposal.
Jon intends to leave dog Odie and fat, sassy cat Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) in the kennel, but the two pets stow away in his bags and go with him to the UK. There we meet fat, spoiled cat Prince (voiced by Tim Curry), a feline who looks a remarkable amount like Garfield. When his owner dies, Prince inherits her estate. This angers her nephew (Billy Connolly), but a silver lining emerges for the snide Lord Dargis: if Prince dies, he takes over Carlyle Castle.
To that end, Dargis puts Prince in a picnic basket that he throws into the river. The kitty floats downstream toward London, where it just so happens Garfield hangs out with Jon and Odie. When caretaker Smithee (Ian Abercrombie) finds Garfield on the street, he takes the cat since he thinks he found Prince. Inevitably, Prince then ends up in Garfield’s place with Jon. The movie follows the shenanigans caused by the switcheroo.
As Babe proved, a good film can come from talking animals. Kitties isn’t that film – and it ain’t even close. Witless and weary, there’s little to make this flick stand out as watchable, much less inspired and entertaining.
The original movie was a bad enough waste of talent since it threw away Murray’s skills. Kitties compounds the disgrace via the presence of many fine actors as animals. Billy Connolly also goes down the toilet in his role. He tries his best but can’t overcome the generic nature of his villain. The flick saddles all its performers with inane situations and lines, so none of them get the chance to come across well.
Kitties is the kind of movie I find it tough to write up simply because there’s so little substance to discuss. It fails to do justice to its literary sources, and it barely manages a coherent story; one could poke many holes in the flabby narrative. If the film mustered some humor beyond its unending string of bad one-liners, then those flaws may become tolerable. However, it just throws out tired gags from start to finish. C’mon – is anyone actually still amused by riffs on “the Artist Formerly Known as Prince”? Those were old in the last century, and they’ve not aged well.
The flick boasts one cutesy sequence after another, none of which entertain. The filmmakers clearly had to work hard to pad the film out to its still short running time of 86 minutes; there’s a lot of filler on display. The story between Liz and Jon exists as nothing more than a plot device to get Garfield to England, and we never care about the humans.
Or anything else, for that matter. Is Kitties worse than the original Garfield movie? Probably not, but that’s damning with faint praise. The first flick was abysmal, and its sequel never outperforms it. This is one long reel of animal wackiness with no wit or inspiration behind it. Frankly, it becomes embarrassing to watch.
Note that this DVD includes both the 78-minute theatrical cut of Kitties along with an 86-minute extended version. In an unusual choice, the theatrical rendition is available fullscreen while the longer edition is widescreen. That means most fans will probably prefer to watch the extended cut.