Cute and cuddly, warm and fuzzy. When the family film can't exploit children in some unimaginable way, animals -- preferably wise-cracking, "in yo face" beasties -- are the next best thing. From Oscar-worthy efforts like Babe to bland commercial drivel like Dr. Dolittle or Beverly Hills Chihuahua, studios regularly substitute man for his best friend, hoping to stimulate box office results. Be they animated or live action, critters definitely keep the Tinseltown money machine printing. Disney is hoping that's true with their latest attempt at anthropomorphized profit. Entitled G-Force, it's a combination live action and CG showcase that vies for edge-of-your-seat excitement. Instead, it only ends up trying one's patience.
Ben (Zack Galifianakis) is an FBI agent desperate to impress his superiors. He's been working with animals, training them for undercover work. His prized protégés are a trio of guinea pigs -- Darwin (Sam Rockwell), Blaster (Tracy Morgan), and Juarez (Penelope Cruz). They are helped by a tech-savvy mole named Speckles (Nicolas Cage). Their first mission involves uncovering an evil plot by electronics billionaire Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy). Seems the highly successful appliance manufacturer has secretly installed military microchips into all his products, and plans on initiating something called "Project Clusterstorm" in two days. Article continues below
When the team's efforts to find the truth fail, bureau head Kip Killian (Will Arnett) shuts Ben down. Before they know it, our highly skilled creatures are sharing a pet shop cell with the flatulent guinea pig Hurley (Jon Favreau) and a highly strung hamster named Bucky (Steve Buscemi). With time a-wastin', they plan their escape in hopes of freeing themselves in time to save the world.
An awful lot of effort went into G-Force. It is technically proficient and all but exploding with kid-oriented eye candy. If value was determined in dazzle, this movie would be a billionaire. Sadly, these action-hero animals appear to need a bailout, pronto. There has probably not been another film this so-so summer that went so far visually for so little emotionally. Like a certain transforming robot title that came out a few weeks ago (which this story actually steals a bit from -- no, really!), longtime effects wizard turned director Hoyt Yeatman Jr. can sure sparkle up the screen. There are sequences that truly shine with the seamless incorporation of animation and live performance. But like a candy-coated Michael Bay, Yeatman also confuses bombast with exhilaration, leading to 90 minutes of random chaos with some unnecessary 3D added in to throw off the more discerning viewer.
This is a film that just tries too hard, and it shows, from the techno-terror inspired villainy (we're talking about world destruction) to the quality of the casting and voice work. G-Force boasts the high profile talents of Cage, Rockwell, and Cruz, while tossing in some minor humor thanks to Morgan, Buscemi, and Favreau. Otherwise wasted, however, are Arnett, Nighy, and Niecy Nash as a sassy pet-store owner. They fall victim to a script by National Treasure scribes the Wibberleys (Cormac and Marianna) that just isn't interesting. Instead of building up to the piglets' big case, watching them grow and gain confidence, we are simply tossed into the middle of their amped-up adventures and asked to accept what is happening. No explanation. No movie magic.
There are actually two competing films fighting for dominance here. One wants to fill the frame with chase scenes, fireworks, and complicated coffee-maker assassins. The other tries too hard to turn some fat furry rats into misunderstood beings with feelings and flaws. Humanizing your heroes is one thing. Doing it to the detriment of the premise you've undertaken is stupid. G-Force could have been a genial bit of fluff. By going overboard, it simply sinks.