Disney // 2009 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // December 15th, 2009
Gadgets, Gizmos and Guinea Pigs.
"I'm like Jeff Gordon with fur."
A powerful industrialist named Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) is secretly concocting a plan to take over the world. After a specialized team of spies known as the "G-Force" fails to provide evidence of Saber's plans, the FBI decides to shut the team down. The team may not have been able to provide evidence, but they're absolutely certain that the world is in danger. The G-Force is going to have to solve this problem on their own time while on the run from the authorities. Oh, and did I mention that the team is primarily comprised of talking guinea pigs?
G-Force is a film that provides precisely what it promises to provide and not one bit more: a Jerry Bruckheimer action movie about an elite force of guinea pigs. I expected the movie would represent a change of pace for Bruckheimer, but in many ways it's a perfectly stereotypical Bruckheimer film. It's loaded with grim military figures, a megalomaniacal villain, red digital countdowns, oodles of high-tech gadgetry, a pounding Trevor Rabin score, and lots of explosions. The film has only one joke, which is that the primary characters in this grim little action flick are guinea pigs. "Oh, that's so cute!" one can imagine a parent and a child exclaiming simultaneously. Evidently, quite a lot of people felt that way, because G-Force was a surprise hit at the box office, grossing over 100 million during its run in theatres. No, seriously.
Given the success of this film and the theatrical incarnation of Alvin and the Chipmunks, I guess people have a fetish for furry little talking mammals, but I have to admit that I like the members of G-Force a whole lot better than Alvin and his gang. These aren't precocious little mischief-makers, but professionals who take what they do very seriously. That particularly applies to Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell, Matchstick Men), whose name is perhaps inspired by the fact that he has evolved far beyond what dear old Charles D. might have ever imagined possible. Darwin is a no-nonsense action hero in the classic Bruckheimer tradition, cutting wires and just barely escaping death with aplomb. The team also consists of the sensual Juarez (voiced by Penelope Cruz, Volver), the loopy Blaster (voiced by Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock) and a mole named Speckles (voiced by Nicolas Cage, National Treasure). Cage's voice work is particularly noteworthy, as the actor does something rather unexpected. Celebrities are traditionally cast in such films for their distinct, recognizable voices, but Cage provides a funny, nasally voice that's near-impossible to recognize. It's actually a good performance, just an unusual one. Jon Favreau (Couples Retreat) and Steve Buscemi (Con Air) also have small voice roles.
The humans in the film have slightly less colorful parts. I'm a huge fan of the marvelous Bill Nighy, but he has next to nothing to do as the villainous Leonard Saber. He only gets enough lines to remind us that he is British, and there is an unwritten rule that if only one British man is in a film, he must the villain. Zach Galifanakis (The Hangover) doesn't get to employ any of his comic chops in his role as Ben, the guy who equips the team with all of their technology. The same problem applies to the FBI Agent played by Will Arnett (Arrested Development), who gets to be as obnoxious as usual but not half as funny. In addition, none of the human actors are particularly good at convincing us that they are actually talking to the guinea pigs.
The action scenes in the film are slick and polished, but also a little bit dull. The story never really manages to involve us on any sort of emotional level, and as a result it's a little bit difficult to care when the guinea pigs are being flung into one dangerous situation after another. Still, kids will undoubtedly be pleased with the colorful energy of it all. A handful of fart jokes aside, the movie is a perfectly tolerable little ride. It just doesn't have any particularly exceptional elements that might make it a better-than-average family film.
The Blu-ray transfer is quite strong, offering a crisp and detailed image. The color palette is perhaps a bit more natural than the average children's film, instead employing a look more in line with a standard modern action film (though a wild fireworks display late in the film is an exception). Detail is nothing short of superb, both in terms of facial and background detail. However, flesh tones are slightly oversaturated at times. The other negative is that some of the CGI is particularly unconvincing, and the hi-def transfer only accentuates that. The audio is solid enough, though a bit less aggressive than one might ordinarily expect from a Bruckheimer film. Rabin's score is pounding and surrounding, but the sound design seems oh-so-slightly muted, lacking the sort of constant subwoofer action that you might have anticipated given the action-dominated nature of the film. Still, it's well-distributed and fairly immersive stuff.
The extras on the disc attempt to cater to both kids and adults, but I suspect that former will find them more enjoyable. The big supplement is CineExplore Mode, which offers a picture-in-picture commentary with director Hoyt Yateman. It's a well-done track technically, combining Yateman's thoughts with stills, behind-the-scenes featurettes and other odds n' ends. However, Darwin and Blaster also turn up at one point to speak about playing their parts in the film, and this is strictly a goofy lark geared towards the young ones. Huh. "Inside the Animation Lab" (8 minutes) offers a brief look at the special effects, while "Bruckheimer Animated" (3 minutes) quickly touches on the producer and his fondness for CGI. "G-Force Mastermind" (5 minutes) reveals the unsurprising fact that a 5-year-old provided the basic plot concept for the film, and "Blaster's Boot Camp" (5 minutes) is a cheesy look at the technology in the film hosted by Blaster. You also get some deleted scenes, a very short blooper reel and three music videos. Disc 2 of the set is a DVD version of the film, while Disc 3 offers a digital copy.
I suppose I've already made my case both for and against the film, but suffice to say that the majority of kids will enjoy the film and the majority of adults will find it bland.
Eh. This guinea pig techno-thriller is what it is, and the Blu-ray is respectable enough.
Not guilty if you're under the age of 10.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Videos
* DVD Version
* Digital Copy