Review: ‘G-Force’ shrinks action to rodent size
July 23, 2009
“G-Force” has been billed as producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s first foray into animation, which suggests his live-action films contain something resembling “reality” and “humans.”
Shrinking Bruckheimer’s usual visual-effects mayhem down to rodent size, “G-Force” is centered on a elite squad of guinea pigs who resemble small(er) versions of Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible.”
The guinea pigs are voiced by Sam Rockwell (Darwin), Tracy Morgan (Blaster) and Penelope Cruz (Juarez). Nicolas Cage, doing the finest voice-over work in the movie, plays Speckles, a computer specialist mole.
They are collectively (along with a voice-less, camera-wielding fly) under the tutelege of G-Force’s creator, Ben. (Only the little critters are animated.) He’s played by the usually unconventional comedian Zach Galifianakis, introduced to many earlier this summer in “The Hangover.”
Ben’s pipsqueak task force is quickly shut down by FBI special agent Kip Killian, played by Will Arnett. The group nevertheless rallies to help uncover the duplicitous dealings of industrialist Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy), whose big plans for world domination include evil coffee makers – a feat, of course, already accomplished by Starbucks.
But you don’t come to see “G-Force” for the intrigue; you come for the talking guinea pigs.
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If “G-Force” has a cousin, it isn’t “Ratatouille” (not by a long shot), but “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” the 2007 film that also married live action with furry, animated cliches.
None in the G-Force come through much as characters. Juarez, we are told, is an attractive guinea pig; a propensity to flirt is her only characteristic. Darwin, the leader, remains a blank slate, but at least is animated in such a way to mimic how Rockwell speaks out of the side of a smirk. Blaster shouts tired urban slang like “Holla!” and “Pimp my ride!”
Like a number of Hollywood’s offerings this summer, “G-Force” is in 3-D. Depending on your perspective, that means either a more interesting viewing experience or simply a more expensive one.
“G-Force” is directed by Hoyt Yeatman, a longtime visual effects maestro on Bruckheimer’s films, including “Armageddon” and “Con Air.” The 3-D effects are occassionally impressive, as when the fly buzzes over your shoulder.
But an opportunity was missed to exploit the 3-D technology from the perspective of hamster-sized spies. And when will effects wizards realize the most important feature of an animated creature isn’t the pixels of its fur, but the liveliness of its eyes?
The movie credits Yeatman with the film’s story and five writers with the screenplay. The group effort, though, wasn’t enough to prevent a climax that will have moviegoers wondering if they accidentally wandered into the theater for the latest “Transformers” film.
Most depressing about “G-Force” is the talent wasted in the name of family entertainment. Galifianakis, Morgan and Arnett are all funnier falling out of bed. Galifianakis, at least, manages to slide in one smart quip: His reconnaissance mosquito rescued, he rejoices: “I don’t like it when my fly is down.”
But “G-Force” ultimately reveals itself as no more than a pest. In one scene, the fly zooms up Nighy’s nose, which is something like the sensation of watching this talking guinea pig movie in 3-D.