May the G-Force be with you

Disney certainly likes its critters. Whereas most people would probably call an exterminator, Disney knows that little whiskered folks can be highly useful, whether it’s helping to sew a ball gown in Cinderella or cook exquisite French food in Ratatouille.

G-Force takes rodent utility even further – this time employing secret agent guinea pigs to save the world from a nefarious billionaire and his deadly household appliances, in a fast-paced family flick that’ll distract the sprogs for almost 90 minutes. and likely have them begging for a new pet.

The G-Force consists of intrepid guinea pigs Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz), Blaster (Tracy Morgan), mole Speckles (Nicholas Cage) and housefly Mooch (Dee Bradley Baker), all of whom can communicate with humans thanks to high-tech headgear.

They are part of an FBI-sponsored elite squad of genetically engineered animals – including clever cockroaches – run by kindly scientist Ben (Zach Galifianakis) and his assistant Marcie (Kellie Garner). Unfortunately they have just one more chance to prove themselves, before their department gets shut down. This involves infiltrating the home of former weapons dealer and current home electronics mogul Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy) and obtaining a microchip – “Project Clusterstorm” – which will prove just how he plans to take over the world.

So far so Mission Impossible meets Mickey Mouse. Indeed, everything pretty much unfolds as you’d expect a predictability that is compensated by cutting edge 3D effects. Marvel as Mooch the fly actually seems to buzz right by your ear (annoying, but uncanny) or as jet powered guinea-pig balls jump out of the screen. The animals blend in seamlessly with their environment, whether in a pet shop or a villainous lair.

There are plenty of attempts to include current pop culture, which the kids are bound to enjoy – songs from Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga, Facebook profiles and comparisons to Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua. There are even attempts to engage adults too, with references to James Bond films and other spy classics – ie Juarez emerging “sexily” from a pond a la Dr No’s Ursula Andress.

The celebrity voices aren’t at all intrusive, but don’t really add much to the characters either. Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) sounds a whole lot like Dennis Quaid and Nicolas Cage is reusing his squeaky Peggy Sue Got Married voice. Penelope Cruz’s husky tones aren’t quite enough to amp up a guinea pig’s sex appeal – thankfully. Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) is forgettable. Jon Favreau, as non-secret-agent guinea pig Hurley manages to imbue his comic performance with some heart, while Steve Buscemi does the best job, as paranoid hamster Bucky.

Similarly, the live action co-stars are impressive, but underused. The Hangover’s breakout performer Galifianakis is rather toned down, with little of the quirky humor that so enlivened the Vegas romp. Bill Nighy (Underworld), usually an excellent villain, is barely dastardly and Arrested Development alumnus Will Arnett, playing uptight agent Kip Killian, is more two-dimensional than his animated nemesis.

Overall, G-Force is the kind of film that does exactly what it says on the tin. As a Disney film, it offers cute characters and cheesy jokes. As a Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean) production, it’s manically packed with thrills and action. Adults might feel a little bored now and then, but overall, it’s wholesome entertainment suitable for kids – and easier than a trip to the zoo. Be sure to see it in 3D.

G-Force (2009, Walt Disney Pictures, 88 minutes)
Directed by Hoyt Yeatman
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by Cormac Wibberley and Marianne Wibberley
Starring Nicolas Cage, Pen*lope Cruz, Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, Will Arnett, Bill Nighy, Zach Galifianakis, Jon Favreau

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