Forget It's A Wonderful Life. Ignore A Christmas Carol. Even the updated version that the Muppets did. Want to learn how to truly embrace the holiday spirit, get into the festive mood and beat up a spotted dog called Odie along the way? Then you've come to the right place, because A Garfield Christmas Special brings all this and much more. Well, not much more. That summary pretty much tells you everything about the show's content. If I wanted, I could end the review here and just keep typing inane sentences to fill up space. Like this. It'd get annoying after a while. Which is why I'll stop. I first saw this television special - from here on in referred to as a movie, because I remain too lazy to keep typing 'television special'. I suppose I could copy-and-paste the word, but that sounds like too much effort - anyway, I first saw it back in 1990, when I was but a sprightly teenager. No doubt I was pretending to hate everything in the world, listening to really bad early 90's sounds - which still had too much of the 80's crapfest music scene about it - and ascending into the heady world of puberty (too much information, Mr. Gringo!). Sorry, I was talking about Garfield?
Oh, yes! The movie opens with a major, super, A1 surprise! The fat orange cat is actually in a good mood! It's Christmas Day, and his owner Jon leads Garfield to the tree with a line of lasagnas. Now I never really understood how a cat - with no opposable thumbs - could hold up a tray of lasagna, let alone shovel the food into his mouth. However, this is cartoon world and everything makes sense to its residents. Otherwise how could you explain a talking cat and dog that live with their sappy owner, who has poorer communication skills than his pets? Anyway, after eating all his festive food, Garfield gets the greatest gift...ever! In the world! Volume IV! A chair. Yes, a chair. But this is no ordinary chair. This chair is really a gift that keeps on giving! Just sit in it, pull the Santa's hat device over your head and ignore the horrible fact that it looks a lot like a Christmas-themed electric chair. When you're strapped into the 'gift', just think of what you want and it pops up from the sack that's attached to the chair. Win! Of course, Garfield reveals his holiday happiness was all a cynical sham, and thinks of diamonds, toys, money, food and plenty of other selfish desires. Compare this to decent soul Jon. What did he wish for and get? A hat.
But as is the way with all good dreams, Garfield wakes up to the cold, gray reality that is his normal existence. With a face like sin, he greets Jon with a bitter glare. Jon's having none of it, and cheerfully tells his cat that they're going to spend Christmas with Jon's family on their farm. After putting up very little resistance (by just getting in the car), Garfield is on his way to the farm. Before he gets there, both he and his owner feel the need to break into song, telling us all about Jon's strange, strange family. Apparently Dad is a bald-headed Homer Simpson lookalike who does nothing but chop down trees. Mom seems to have a permanent smile and no eyes. Grandma is a feisty old battleaxe, and Doc Boy just "gets in the way". I detect a bit of sibling rivalry between Jon and Doc Boy. I think in a fight that Jon would win. Besides, what sort of a name is Doc Boy? Last I checked (I didn't really check! Such lies!), Jon's brother hadn't achieved a doctorate in anything. Except maybe Getting In The Way studies, which I believe most Universities are offering as a three-year course starting next year. For that matter, the 'boy' moniker is clearly no longer fitting for a man with about three strands of hair on his head and a paunch to rival that of everyone's favorite seasonal jolly fat man, Father Christmas.
With the introduction to Jon's family complete, Garfield, Odie and his owner arrive at the farmhouse. Mom offers Jon about a million things to eat, leading Garfield to instantly take a liking to the woman. However, if Mom had beaten Jon up and sent him to his room until the New Year, Garfield would probably have still been happy. Doc Boy and his almost spitting image father meet and greet their "city slicker" relative and generally ignore Garfield and Odie. This stands to reason. Jon seems to be the only one who can understand his pets and form some sort of bizarre almost-conversing-with-them relationship. Everyone else just thinks Jon's a little bit touched in the head. Garfield has enough of being overlooked, so he goes over to meet Grandma. I liked Grandma from the moment I saw her. She punches Jon in the stomach, then goes to sit down, without any thought of an apology. Fantastic! Garfield decides this sassy old woman is his kind of friend, and goes to sleep on her lap. Grandma tells him how Christmas is always lonely, because it's when her husband died. For a moment - despite it being a cartoon, despite the fact I really should know better - I gave in to the sentimental music and tale of lost love, and started to feel sorry for this ink-and-colour character. Oh, Gringo, you are all heart!
If ever I was to make a New Year's resolution to stick to, it should probably be to stop referring to myself in the third person. So wise, Gringo! Whoops! Anyway, Garfield soon breaks the nostalgic spell cast by Grandma's story. How does he achieve this? First of all he walks into a water pump after saying "things can't get much worse". Oh, the irony! After that, we're treated to the sight of a typical Christmas at the Arbuckle (Jon's surname, foolish person!) family farm. And what a festive time it is! Grandma feeds the pets food from the table (so naughty, lady!), Garfield climbs the Christmas tree with the consequence of falling back down through it, and both Mom and Grandma try to tamper with each other's sausage gravy. Obviously gravy is a major concern in the local area, because both women turn a little bit nasty when it comes to the subject. They blatantly accuse each other of being useless cooks, before going their separate ways. However, this is the season of goodwill, and they forgive one another - even if they do both have incredibly cautious looks on their faces when sat at the table, eating food the other has prepared.
Whilst all this crazy gravy-tampering and bizarre tree climbing takes place, Odie keeps acting very suspiciously. The dog keeps creeping out of the house and running into the nearby barn, always with various implements (wood, a fork and some string) between his teeth. Naturally, Garfield is confused and perhaps a little frightened and eventually goes into the barn to find out what the hell is going on. He rumbles Odie's devious plans and uncovers some bizarre device that has combined all the objects the dog (also know as Garfield's personal punch-bag) was playing with. Not knowing what on Earth it could be, the big fat orange cat decides to wander round the barn. He eventually finds a stack of old letters, and - again defying human logic - picks them up with his paws (the laws of science say no! Officer Scientist will get you!) and heads off to sleep, or eat, or just generally moan about everything. Officer Scientist meanwhile sits in his lair, plotting devious ways to enforce the laws of science on unsuspecting citizens and arrest them for not obeying gravity or some other such misdemeanor. They never made an Officer Scientist Christmas Special. That could be because Officer Scientist doesn't exist.
Regardless of this fact, when Christmas Day does at the Arbuckle farm finally comes around, it's noticeably different from the one Garfield dreamt about at the start of the movie. There's no trail of lasagna and definitely no insane electric chair-gift giving hybrid machine in sight. Presents are handed out and, well, that's about it. But before the family goes back to squabbling, Garfield and Odie present the last two major plot twists. Firstly, Odie reveals what he'd been working on. The bizarre wood-fork-string device that Garfield had discovered is actually a back-scratcher, perfect for cats and dogs. Still remaining ever so slightly selfish, after Odie has shown Garfield how to work the scratcher (stand underneath it and jiggle about a bit), Garfield pushes the friendly dog out of the way and uses it himself. Although his does say thank you to Odie, so he's not all bad. The second surprise comes via Garfield himself. The envelopes he found in the barn contained love letters written to Grandma's husband years ago when the two were - her words, not mine - "courting". Again, a little bit of schmaltzy music combined with another sappy story from the old woman and I started to enjoy the corny sight I was watching.
And what brought me out of this happy spell? Music! As is the way with certain Christmas movies - most notably cartoon movies - Garfield's festive fun ends with another song. Except this is no ordinary song. This is an authentic farm hoe-down! The motley crew assemble around Mom's piano and crack out a classic tune, called Good Old Fashioned Christmas. They sing about over-eating and making sure to "keep our tootsies warm". Surely the two most important elements of anyone's Christmas. This being the season of giving, I'll share the joy of this merry song. You can click here and join in the fun, singing along to Garfield and friends as they crank out their Yuletide celebration. Don't say I never give you anything. You already know that this site is the place to come for low-quality reviews. Now you get Garfield songs. What more could you possibly want? Keep your tootsies warm and watch out for any suspicious sausage gravy.
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