From Francis the Talking Mule to the recently deceased Taco Bell dog, America loves its talking animals. Disney’s G-Force is the latest entry in this long tradition. The days of hooking fishing line to Mr. Ed’s mouth to make him talk are long gone. Here we get a bevy of CGI guinea pigs out to save the world. It’s obviously a reaction to—and an attempt at cashing in on—the unfortunately rampant popularity of 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks. That G-Force is better than Alvin is no surprise (the mere fact that “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” is nowhere to be heard in this movie automatically makes it better), but what is surprising is how well G-Force works as a popcorn flick for the elementary-school set.
This movie is disposable entertainment, pure and simple. But seeing as how it’s aimed squarely at youngsters, with its undemanding plotting and short (88 minutes) running time, it meets its modest ambitions. G-Force is just one of those movies I’m sure my 8-year-old self would’ve loved, simply because it never attempts to be anything more than the enjoyable kiddie flick it sets out to be.
Of course, this doesn’t make G-Force a good movie, especially if you’re an adult and are used to the action-movie clichés the film likes to parade around. The setup is straightforward, with a mawkish government agent (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover) in charge of a group of specially trained, covert rodentia, each filling out his or her requisite hackneyed action/adventure role. There’s the tough-guy leader, Darwin (Sam Rockwell), the sassy Juarez (Penélope Cruz) and Blaster (Tracy Morgan), the comic relief. The team even includes a nebbish nerdy mole voiced by Nicolas Cage, which is surprisingly the most fun and exciting he’s been since wearing a bear suit at the end of The Wicker Man (2006).
The group of varmints manages to uncover a plot to take over the world by home-appliance magnate Saber (Bill Nighy). However, before they can foil the evil-doing, they’re disbanded by a surly government agent (Will Arnett, The Rocker). They contrive to run away from the agent, only to be trapped in a pet store with a flatulent, overweight guinea pig named Hurley (Jon Favreau). With only a little bit of time before the excrement hits the air conditioning, it’s up to these critters to escape and save the world as we know it.
There’s nothing terribly original about the plot. It mostly just trades in the usual action-movie tropes, like gratuitous explosions and zingy one-liners. None of it is surprising in the least, including the film’s big twist that’s telegraphed in the first five minutes. But the movie moves along quickly and the cast is likable enough that it doesn’t matter all that much (it’s nice to see a kid’s movie devoid of an obnoxious character or performance).
Director Hoyt Yeatman—helming his first feature after doing visual effects in Hollywood for the past three decades—gets some of the most good out of the 3-D process that I’ve seen since the popularization of RealD 3-D technology over the past few years. Pixar’s Up recently tried to legitimize 3-D beyond its usual gimmickry, going for subdued visual depth as opposed to the typical 3-D odds and ends flying out over the audience. G-Force, on the other hand, bases every action set piece around some eyes-a-poppin’ 3-D effect. By fully embracing the cheesiness of 3-D, Yeatman has made a fun—if not substantial—little kid’s movie, even if it risks making its 2-D version utterly worthless. Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.