Review: G-Force -- Bruckheimer's Guinea Pig Experiment Yields Disappointing Results

"The movie's humor hinges on fart jokes and uninspired quips a la a 1950s lounge act."

 

What better guinea pigs for producer Jerry Bruckheimer's first 3-D experiment with an animated-family-adventure formula that could feasibly launch a lucrative kiddie-flick franchise, than actual guinea pigs? They're cute, cuddly, CGI-enhanced, and infused with the requisite Hollywood talent: Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz, and Tracy Morgan (G-Force guinea pigs Darwin, Juarez, and Blaster). The guinea pigs are teamed with Nicholas Cage (Speckles, G-Force's genius mole) and Mooch, a surveillance spy on the wall. Steve Buscemi and Jon Favreau also assist the rodent romp as pet-store roomies Bucky the territorial hamster and cake-a-holic guinea pig Hurley.

A product of a covert government program's tinkering with animal intelligence and inter-species communication, the fledgling spy squad of critters is about to lose their F.B.I. funding. Apparently, talking guinea pigs don't impress Feds. Nor do they get goose bumps when guinea pigs infiltrate a guarded estate, hack into a computer, and download a file onto a PDA. What would thrill them, it seems, is if the pudgy operatives could perform all of the above AND obtain information about sinister industrialist Leonard Saber's (Bill Nighy) suspicious plan to awaken a networking chip in his company's consumer appliances. So your coffeemaker can chat with your computer and tell it to add espresso beans to the grocery list.

It's a plot with immense potential to be a knockout Disney debut followed by a series of smash sequels. Mission impossibles set anywhere -- outerspace ... the future ... an animal and insect kingdom full of rookie recruits. Gadgets galore. Goofy undercover scenarios aplenty to make you rethink your own pet's intelligence.

But does it deliver on screen?

Cage, Cruz, Rockwell, and the other actors take to their creature counterparts well. A few absurd scenes merit chuckles: Blaster hijacking a remote-control car, Juarez suffering a guinea pig Barbie makeover, and a hamster-ball super car and blenders turned Terminators make for clever special effects. The guinea pig CGI's top-notch.

Alas, high points like these are disappointingly few. Most of the movie's humor hinges on fart jokes and uninspired quips a la a 1950s lounge act. In response to a coffee machine turned murderous -- "I heard coffee was bad for you but ... " and seconds later "talk about killer cappuccino!" (insert drum roll ... ). The 3-D is unspectacular. Frequently unfocused action scenes far outnumber the heartwarming life lessons crammed into the film's final moments and, at about the same time, the plot takes a twist that's counterintuitive even in an animated universe where roaches retrieve microchips. It's as if the screenwriters lost their bearings near the end. For a few fuzzy seconds G-Force even turns into Transformers. The writers also never fully tap the wry brilliance of Will Arnett or even the "Mmm ... Mm!" shtick of Niecy Nash.

Wall-E and Up have set the bar high for family films, and it's largely Disney's fault that G-Force's debut mission measures so mediocre.

Grade: C