Thursday, July 23, 2009

Big Things Come In Small Packages

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer brings his first 3-D film to the big screen with G-Force, a comedy adventure about the latest evolution of a covert government program to train animals to work in espionage. Armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, these highly trained guinea pigs discover that the fate of the world is in their paws. Tapped for the G-Force are guinea pigs Darwin (voice of Sam Rockwell), the squad leader determined to succeed at all costs; Blaster (voice of Tracy Morgan), an outrageous weapons expert with tons of attitude and a love for all things extreme; and Juarez (voice of Penelope Cruz), a sexy martial arts pro; plus the literal fly-on-the-wall reconnaissance expert, Mooch, and a star-nosed mole, Speckles (voice of Nicolas Cage), the computer and information specialist.

There are five credited screenwriters on the kiddie action film G-Force, which sums up the frantic, suffocating thinking that ends up marring the picture. This is a team of super spy guinea pigs getting into all sorts of hijinks, there’s little need to add pathos or rigid character arcs. G-Force feels the urge to present audiences with a sympathetic portrayal of talking animals, when it’s clear that potential viewers, both young and old, would rather see these heroes in all stages of miniature combat and furry teamwork instead. Members of a top secret government spy squad, guinea pigs Darwin (Rockwell), Juarez (Cruz), Blaster (Morgan), and mole Speckles (Cage) make up the G-Force, guided by human agents Ben (Zach Galifianakis) and Marcie (Kelli Garner). On the hunt to uncover the insidious plan of global industrialist Saber (Bill Nighy), the team is unexpectedly shut down by a bureaucratic stooge (Will Arnett), retreating to a pet store to regroup and reassess the plan of attack. Meeting fellow cage inhabitants Hurley (Jon Favreau) and Bucky (Steve Buscemi), Darwin comes to learn his past might not have been as glamorous as originally thought, but his future and his country need his services to stop Saber from taking over the world through household appliances. I was taken with G-Force during the introductory sequences. The marriage of visual effects and distinctive voice work from the actors generates a special distraction of comedy and action, constructing a plucky matinee playground to enjoy. Boosted by 3-D imagery, G-Force has a unique personality, bountiful CG flair, and enough boomy, peppy Black Eyed Peas songs to keep the motor humming acceptably. Kids should be enthralled. 

G-Force is undeniably weird. It's not every day you see a coffee machine (Saber's plan involves appliances coming to life) attack a talking guinea pig in 3D. Kids like to see something new when they head to the theater, something they can talk about on the playground. "Remember when THAT happened?" And I really feel that G-Force delivers in that department. For the adults, the script isn't nearly as stupid as most of these types of films are. Yes, it's flawed. The villain could have been more than a two-line plot description and there could have been some more clever dialogue, but I never felt like my intelligence was being insulted and there are enough references aimed at the parents to keep them from regretting the family night at the movies. There's also an over-reliance on the "throwing things at the audience" angle of 3D although I don't feel like the kids in the audience will mind going "ooh" and "aah" every time they think a cute guinea pig is going to fall in their lap. There's a moment in G-Force that captured my imagination more than anything else I've seen in this summer's blockbuster movies. Certain nefarious activities in the film — which, by the way, is a genuinely enjoyable romp with talking guinea pigs working for U.S. intelligence — require a satellite circling our planet to make a mechanical adjustment of some sort. There's a cut to the satellite's position in space, similar to other shots of solo orbiters seen in action films. But the image in G-Force is different: While the essential satellite is in the foreground, we can see scores of others rounding Earth in varying directions and at different distances from the surface. One can't help but think, wow! This must be what it really looks like up there, with all those sedan-size machines crisscrossing the sky. The image lasts barely a second — G-Force never rests — but what lingers is the rarity of a fresh approach to an overly familiar idea and it works perfectly here. Go and see it with the little ones. You may just enjoy it as much as they do. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

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