Telefilm Review: Garfield’s Babes and Bullets

Garfield’s Babes and Bullets is a 1989 Emmy-Award-winning Television special based on Jim Davis’ book Garfield: His Nine Lives, a book which was based on the premise that cats literally have nine lives and that Garfield has had past lives as a cave cat, a lab animal, etc. The other segments of the book were adapted as a separate TV special, Garfield: His Nine Lives. The Babes and Bullets segment from the book shares only the name of the character and tone. The story for the TV special is different from what was in the book.

In the TV special, it’s a rainy day, and Garfield (Lorenzo Music) goes to sleep in the closet and dreams he’s Sam Spayde, a hard-boiled private investigator. The wife of a recently deceased twenty-three-year-old college professor thinks her husband was murdered rather than dying in an auto accident. Spayde sets out to investigate the case.

The special does a great job capturing the tone, the feel, the style, and the dialogue of a noir film perfectly. The story is a comedy but never becomes a farce. The story is kid-friendly, but the humor is a little less silly than what was being played on the Saturday Morning mainstay Garfield and Friends with that sort of all-ages family comedy feel the Garfield specials went for.

I also appreciate the premise on a conceptual level. Cats spend a lot of time sleeping or perching in odd places and staying totally still. The idea that they’re doing something like daydreaming about being a hard-boiled private eye is a nice premise.

While the “Garfield” framing segments are animated in the typical style of the other TV specials, the Spayde segment is done very well in Black and White, which really adds to the ambiance. The special also has a very nice jazzy theme song and score. Although, if I were to level one criticism at the special, it’s that there was at least one segment where either no music or a different selection might have worked a bit better.

Garfield’s Babes and Bullets is a well-done and entertaining love letter from the late 1980s to the hard-boiled detective films of the 1940s and 1950s. If you love Garfield or share the creative team’s appreciation, it makes for an entertaining twenty-four minutes.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Garfield’s Babes and Bullets is currently available for free to Amazon Prime Members along with eight other Garfield TV specials.

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