Friday, December 24, 2010

Let's Review a Movie: A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)

As a child of the 90’s watching the Garfield and Friends cartoon show was an early morning tradition growing up. So, it’s only fair that the big orange guy gets a review of his 1987 Christmas special.

I can barely begin to describe how much I enjoy this little film. It’s everything I look for in a Christmas film. Fun without being really preachy, funny without being mean spirited, and touching all rolled into one.

The only big criticism I can bring to it is the opening sequence. Garfield is having a dream where he thinks that Christmas means presents, lots and lots of presents. “Greed, avarice, I love it.” This gives the impression the whole moral of the story will be that giving is better that receiving, except the rest of the film doesn’t focus on that at all. Garfield doesn’t spend his time counting gifts or hogging all the food during dinner, or writing a long list to Santa. So, that whole opening credits and song don’t really fit. I do like the moral that was actually addressed at the end though and I’ll discuss that a bit later.

Apart from having a message this is mainly a comedy and so there are a lot of jokes. One of my personal favourites is when Jon tells Garfield to behave himself when they arrive at the farm and the response he gets is:

“No problem. I’ll wait in the car.”

It so typical of the holiday rush sometimes. When you just want to say, to heck with it all, you guys do all this stuff and I’ll go sit in a dark closet until Boxing Day, thanks. There are also jokes about dinner, Docboy and his piano playing, Garfield and the Christmas tree. Even Binky manages to get a reference in here for a laugh. Finally Docboy and John waking up their dad at one in the morning to open presents never gets old. I think that one of the reasons for this is that nobody gets a laugh at the expense of anybody else. Garfield may joke about leaving Odie in the barn to have dinner, but we immediately cut to Odie getting stuff to make a gift and coming to dinner so no harm was done. The characters can get on each other’s nerves without being total jerks and I enjoy that. All the characters are nice in this story, which can be a problem in a lot of other more modern works. Odie makes a gift for Garfield just because he wants to. John happily does the chores. Dad rolls his eyes, but still reads that old childhood Christmas story anyway. Even Garfield himself, who doesn’t want to go to the farm in the first place, will sit in Grandma’s lap just because he knows she needs it.

Speaking of the old girl I have to say that I love Grandma. She is everything I want to be when I get old. She’s feisty, snarky, and a little bit sneaky, but she’s also very caring. She may not like her daughter’s sausage gravy, but she’ll still help with the meal and the clean-up. And make her grandson say a proper grace that’s short and sweet thank you very much. Finally when she talks about her late husband with Garfield and says how much she misses him you can really feel how much she still loves him.

As a said at the beginning of this review there is a moral in this movie. The whole movie focuses on the secular angle of the holiday, saying grace at dinner being the only reference to any religion we get, without focusing on the whole giving is better than receiving Aesop, despite the opening scene. Or discussing the Santa myth which is the other popular choice in holiday films. Here instead the message is that: “it’s not the giving, it’s not the getting, it’s the loving.” I like that because it’s a message we don’t normally get to see in these specials and because it really encompasses my feelings about the holidays. Getting gifts is fun and it always was. Giving gifts is enjoyable too, especially as I get older and can get, and make, better things than just painted hearts glued to a piece of paper. Decorating, baking, wrapping and so on, all of the tasks are fun and makes me happy to do it, most of the time, because I want my friends and family to be happy. I do it because I love them not just to feel good about giving something. It just hits home for me all the reasons I love the whole holiday season. All in it is a fun and funny Christmas special.

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