‘I’m not doing the ugly American thing,’ says Garfield (Bill Murray) in this souped-up sequel to 2004’s pretty awful Garfield, which takes the feline sour-puss off in a much more plot-driven direction and generates a good few laughs in the process.Murray has made a big deal of saying he regrets making two movies as the voice of Garfield, but for the record, I have no regrets at all about watching the second installment of the adventures of this animated cat.
As the title suggests, Tim Hill’s film uses Charles Dickens as a jumping off point, although The Prince and the Pauper’s dual protagonist is also a clear inspiration. Garfield stows away with his doggy-pal Odie when his own heads to London on holiday, but unknown to them, lookalike Prince (voiced by Tim Curry) has been exiled from his castle after inheriting it; the nefarious Lord Manfred Dargis (Billy Connolly) is responsible.
When Garfield meets Prince, predictable music-hall mirror gags abide, but there’s also plenty of life in the minor characters, with Ian Abercrombie, Roger Rees and Lucy Davis all having a laugh. A Tale of Two Kitties was less than enthusiastically received in 2006, but it looks much brighter in the light of cheap imitations like The Queen’s Corgi; predicable gags like Garfield getting chased by palace guards while shouting ‘The British are coming!’ or Garfield’s doppelganger saying ‘I used to be formerly known as Prince’ hit exactly the right spot.
And the perennially underused Billy Connolly shines in a role presumably intended for, and rejected by John Cleese; the Glasgow comic throws himself into the role of thwarted wannabe aristocrat with genuine glee. He’s every bit as good in this as he was in Muppets’ Treasure Island, and regular readers will know that is as high praise as this writer can bestow. Essential cinema.