Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney conduct animal experiments in 3D
“Because we can” is a phrase you imagine gets a lot of use around Hollywood. Murderous cyborgs from the future—sure. A golden retriever plays basketball—let’s do it. Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. Well…
And so we come to a group of genetically engineered guinea pigs saving the world. The rodents are members of a secret FBI team trained and equipped by an agency techie (Zack Galifianakis. whom I really don’t look that much like.[Editor’s note: Yes, he does. It’s freaky.]) Seeking to prove themselves to their government funders, they undertake a mission to expose the evil plans of a shady electronics tycoon (Bill Nighy). But the job goes awry and the project is shut down. The next thing they know, our furry feds find themselves knee-deep in wood shavings in a pet store cage. The world’s only underemployed rodents, they are lost without an impossible mission. So they contrive to break out and finish what they started. Along the way, they come to discover that you don’t have to be a special agent to be special.
Veteran visual effects man Hoyt Yeatman directs with an eye toward elaborate computer-generated action and zippy, free-flying points of view. No barrier can stop his camera, and he can’t resist bringing us along on roller-coaster rides through solid walls, under speeding cars and down twisting tunnels. The effect can be dizzying, especially in 3D. The computer generated hullabaloo sometimes seems to get ahead of itself, giving some sequences the frenetic, fractured feel of a more poorly produced digital video.
The voice work, though, is top-notch, provided by a group of surprisingly heavy hitters—Sam Rockwell as the head honcho Darwin; Penelope Cruz as the sultry (keep in mind, we’re still talking about guinea pigs) Spanish agent Juarez; Nicolas Cage, unrecognizable as the nerdy computer-hacking mole Speckles; and Jon Favreau, with a touching turn as a pet store native who is pressed into service. (I’m sorry to say that with his character Bluster, Tracy Morgan’s snappy sass doesn’t translate well to voice-over; his bits seem to slow the pace of some scenes). There are some welcome jokes for the grown-ups in attendance, from clever references to Die Hard and the Indiana Jones films, to offhand quips about financial woes, to agent Juarez taking time out from espionage to update her Facebook page.
Like any good action flick, G-Force trades in chases and narrow escapes—it is fast-paced and sometimes quite intense. There’s a car chase that goes whizzing through a school zone, with several big official trucks go spinning and flipping over. The climactic sequences get all explodey, with tripwires tripped, fireworks-style ordnance going off and space junk raining down like artillery. It’s all very exciting, but it’s quite loud and could be overwhelming for the youngsters. One hamster gets singed when running through flames; another is seemingly crushed in a garbage compactor, and still another is seen unconscious and possibly dead. Providing nightmare fuel is a menagerie of creepy, crawly, slithery and growly animals and insects that populate the movie. We get up close and personal with a housefly reconnaissance officer and an army of cockroaches that invade a room and march over every surface and inhabitant in it. There’s also a snake that threatens to make our heroes lunch—it slithers and hisses, then strikes straight at the camera, barely contained by the screen. It’s a jumper that I feel confident will send some kids (and adults) diving under the seats. There are also snarling and charging attack dogs and a hissing cat.
There’s some tame flirting among the film’s tiny love triangle, played for ironic silliness. There are a couple of jokes that make use of the connotations of the term “pellets”—and one of the little tough guys chews on a food pellet as though it were a cigar. There are many uses of the word “butt” and variants like “hind and “behind”, and a preoccupation with farting (among the things you may need to tell your kids not to do is light one’s flatulence on fire). There’s a “you suck,” one reference to “tighty-whiteys”, and a quip about a young boy who needs to “take his meds”. And a character excitedly exclaims “Pimp my ride”. (How things change—does anyone, I wonder, know or care what that really refers to anymore?)
The preview for Disney’s TV movie Wizards of Waverly Place features mild wizardry.
Jared Peterson doesn’t know from guinea pig super-agents—but he once had a pet rat that was a very competent CPA. He last reviewed Brüno.