December 16th, 2009
The screenplay for "G-Force" seems to fumble the joy of the concept, hunting for a more impactful way to tell a very silly story.
This might be the reason there’s a 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 (voiced by Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz), Blaster (Tracey Morgan), and mole Speckles (Nicolas Cage) make up the G-Force, guided by human agents Ben (Zach Galifianakis) and Marcie (Kelli Garner, in a role that’s been whittled down to a near-wordless cameo). 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.
Director Hoyt Yeatman has enjoyed a long career as a special effects mastermind behind some of Hollywood biggest blockbusters, even winning an Academy Award for his work on James Cameron’s masterwork, “The Abyss.” It makes sense that for his filmmaking debut, Yeatman was handed CG-intensive material, playing to his strengths as an imaginative man with technical expertise. When “G-Force” is locked into adventure mode, it’s an unexpected charmer, with Yeatman taking the cartoon premise and making a “Mission: Impossible” quest out of it, though lowered to a friendly scale that remains approachable for family audiences.
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. “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.
Possibly in a page count panic to fill 90 minutes, the writers insist on an emotional conflict for Darwin and the gang to stall for time, sticking to a moldy screenwriting template that submerges our heroes in doubt so the production can concoct a false sense of triumph. It’s an unnecessary step, and worse, it kills the momentum of the picture. The actors do a superb job crafting personalities for the heroes (Cage is in silly voice heaven); forcing backstory and self-esteem issues into the mix undercuts their work. “G-Force” is already over-scripted as it is, with the Saber plot involving a strangely complicated introduction before a payoff with “Transformers” style metallic mayhem. If only more time was spent flattening out the mission and less time on wringing depth from the guinea pigs, there might be more to cheer for here than the occasional explosion and act of rodent heroism.
The AVC encoded image (2.40:1 aspect ratio) here is exceptionally impressive, capturing the finer details of the pocket-sized stars with terrific clarity, while still retaining a film-like appearance to keep the proper cinematic feel intact. Colors are magnificent, vivid and sharp, best viewed in evening or low-light sequences, where the spy gear lends the image a vivid glow. Facial detail is available, looking impressive on some of the film’s human stars, while the diminutive gags are well preserved in high definition. Interestingly, without the 3-D enhancement, which darkens the image in a theatrical setting, “G-Force” looks significantly better, achieving a bright cartoonish pop that would otherwise be smothered with the extra dimension.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix on the “G-Force” Blu-ray surprised me with its liveliness and general complexity. Dealing with a world of miniature heroes and their spy tools, the chirpy, beeping nuances of the track shine wonderfully, spilling into the surrounds to provide a proper environment of teeny reconnaissance. Scenes featuring a spy fly are especially dynamic in presentation. LFE response is generally good, needed for some of the heavier bouts of mayhem that arrive later in the film. Dialogue is never disturbed, easy to discern all the way through, even when the characters are yelling over one another or dealing with Cage, who speaks with a pinched voice. French and Spanish 5.1 tracks are available as well.
English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
“Cine-Explore with Darwin, Blaster, and Their Creator” is the unofficial audio commentary of the film. The conversation is guided by director Yeatman, who takes the viewer on a BTS expedition, discussing the film through featurettes, interviews, storyboards, and animatics, along with traditional commentary conversation. Jumping in now and then to remind everyone how bad an actor Yeatman is? Two of the “G-Force” gang, here to break up the technical monotony. This is my second time spent with the “Cine-Explore” feature, and it’s a marvelous way to shake up the commentary process, adding visual evidence of production toil to help understand anecdotes and tech jargon. It’s very cool, even for “G-Force.”
“Blaster’s Boot Camp” (4:41) features the tiny hero taking viewers through the demands of being a pint-sized superspy.
“G-Force Mastermind” (4:13) greets Hoyt Yeatman, IV, the pre-teen who came up with the concept of action guinea pigs six years ago, triggering a creative explosion inside his father, the director.
“Bruckheimer Animated” (3:12) is a celebratory piece on the super-producer and his contributions to the world of special effects. Clips from the blockbusters in question are supplied.
“Access Granted: Inside The Animation Lab” (7:52) spotlights Sony Imageworks, the visual effects house that put together “G-Force.” Yeatman takes the viewer around the office, showing off the different stages of CG-animation.
“G-Farce” (1:49) is a short gag reel, with much of the focus on Galifianakis and his inability to keep from laughing.
“Deleted Scenes” (6:17) are mostly insignificant trims, though a few extended pet store sequences are moderately amusing.
“Music Videos” (8:24) for “Jump” (by Flo Rida featuring Nelly Furtado), “Ready to Rock” (by Steve Rushton), and “Go G-Force” are offered.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
“G-Force” is a halfway interesting movie that doesn’t trust itself enough to just run carefree and enjoy the wacky premise. Instead we’re treated to fart jokes, achingly dull scripting, and exposition that eats up nearly half the movie. It’s super-intelligent guinea pigs who update their Facebook pages, know how to hack computers, and dodge fireballs. It hardly needs gravitas to provide a full course cinematic meal.
My rating: C