What It Is
Most obviously, it’s Transformers with guinea pigs. (Or, Alvin and the Chipmunks with killer robots.) G-Force pits a team of highly trained and awfully cute furry creatures against a plot to take over the world. When his lab faces defunding by the U.S. government, the team’ss human leader, Ben (Zach Galifiankis), sends the rodents—who use high-tech gizmos and speak English via a super-duper mini-translator—to gather information on home appliances magnate Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy). When their findings are compromised and the FBI decides to shut them down, the self-named G-Force must prove themselves worthy and save the world.
Why It’s Fun
The opening scene lays out the basic formula of putting rodents in familiar action movie situations. Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell) leads his squad—comprised of a bespectacled mole named Speckles (Nicholas Cage), Mooch the fly (equipped with teeny surveillance gear), and two other guinea pigs, big-eyelashed Juarez (Penélope Cruz) and Blaster (Tracy Morgan)—in crashing a fancy-dress party at Saber’s mansion. They flip and scoot and rappel their way inside, where they find a computer file with a plan to use coffee makers, microwave ovens, and blenders to achieve “global extermination.”
But even as Ben and his assistant Marcie (Kelli Garner) imagine they will be rewarded for such good work, something goes wrong in their presentation to FBI Special Agent in Charge Kip Killian (Will Arnett). He orders the lab closed and the guinea pigs confiscated. They escape, for a minute, by hiding in a cage en route to a pet store. Here they meet another big-hearted, if clumsy, guinea pig, Hurley (Jon Favreau), and a conniving hamster, Bucky (Steve Buscemi), before Blaster and Juarez are taken home by a couple of kids. Something of a bully, Connor (Tyler Patrick Jones) sends Blaster through an obstacle course on a remote-controlled car, while his sister Penny (Piper Mackenzie Harris) dresses up Juarez in a tiara and lipstick. The guinea pigs fight back, in a sequence that punishes the kids (mainly, knocking them down) for trying to remake their new pets in their own images. (This seems an odd choice, in a movie that wants to connect kid viewers with its little animal heroes.)
After eluding mostly clueless FBI agents in big fast cars, the team is reunited—just in time to bond and combat those appliances, now triggered into hive-mind mode. The movie’s last half-hour is predictably noisy and explosive (à la Transformers) and not so much fun.
Who’s Going To Love It
The most obvious audience for G-Force will be fans of movies with talking animals. The film’s best message is its emphasis on family—here a family made of misfits who share interests, experiences, and values.
The animals here are extremely appealing and human-like, with detailed facial expressions and gestures, which offsets at least some of the movie’s actionated excesses. Promoted as the first 3-D movie from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, best known for milking media franchises (the CSI series, Pirates of the Caribbean, National Treasure), G-Force doesn’t actually do much with the technology. Aside from a couple of rodents falling towards you and the fly soaring overhead, most of the action moves across the screen, side to side.
Throughout, the animals—whose DNA, you learn apropos of nothing, is “98.7% identical to humans”—perform high-octane stunts and fart jokes, name-check icons like Macgyver, and quote repeatedly from other movies (Indiana Jones, Apocalypse Now, Die Hard). While such peripheral business makes them seem a little sharper than the people who chase them, it also means the movie’s target audience is not entirely clear. The movie’s main drawback is that it is repetitive, with the plot suggesting a spinning hamster wheel: even young viewers might be bored by the end.
What To Be Aware Of
Its violence is unsurprising, including car chases, car flips, and car crashes, as well as a few close calls with snarly dogs, and explosions and falls that leave rodents looking burned and dazed. The guinea pigs tend to behave according to broad gender and race/ethnic stereotypes. As the boys compete over Juarez, she resists their entreaties, sometimes asserting her girlness (“Finding something that fits me off the rack, that’s impossible”) and other times her tomboyishness (“If you try to put a bow on me you’re gonna lose a finger”). She and Blaster both use language that emphasizes their race or ethnicity (she urges the group to “Vamos,” he delights in a new super-spy vehicle: "That’s what’s up! Pimp my ride!”).
3 out of 10
Director: Hoyt Yeatman
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Will Arnett, Penélope Cruz, Bill Nighy, Zach Galifiankis, Kelli Garner
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Rated: PG for some mild action and rude humor
US Premiere: July 24, 2009 (General release)
UK Premiere: July 31, 2009 (General release)