M: I have to start this review with some background information. When I first heard that Disney was going to be making a kids movie called “G Force” I got really excited. See, when I was growing up there was a fantastic cartoon called “Battle of the Planets” that E and I watched every day like clockwork (C wasn’t born yet, or she would have, too). The main characters of the show were a group of five heroes that formed a team called G-Force (or as our dad called them, mimicking a particularly memorable scene from one episode, G-Fork). To say that we loved the show wouldn’t even begin to cover our feelings for it. It was the first thing other than Sesame Street that we watched with regularity, and that created a real bond in our developing minds. We thought that Battle of the Planets was the greatest thing since sliced bread, heck, we thought it was greater than sliced bread, and as my baloney-and-cheese obsessed sister can tell you, we’re pretty big fans of sliced bread.
So when I found out that this new G Force was not, in fact, a 21st century movie version of our beloved childhood show, I was deeply disappointed. When I found out that it was CGI guinea pigs in 3-D, well, lets just say that I had my doubts.
Enter one of my good friends, and his nose for great deals. He found out about a free screening of G Force, and the next thing I knew, my wife and I, our two oldest kids, and a very big group of our friends and their kids were piling into a theater and donning 3D spectacles. One thing that I have known for a long time is that atmosphere you see a movie in can play a huge part in determining if you are going to enjoy it. I’ve found this is especially true with comedies. The first time I saw There’s Something About Mary, I was tired and everyone else in the room, all of whom had already seen it, fell asleep. Subsequently, I thought it was over-hyped and not really all that great. The next time I saw it was with a great group of people, all of whom were ready to laugh. That time I laughed my butt off, and saw the movie that everyone had raved about. So as we sat there in the theater, attending to the 15 or so kids with us, and cracking jokes at the previews, and generally being a nuisance to the rest of the audience, I could tell the atmosphere was right. The only question was whether or not the movie would be decent enough to take advantage of it.
To my pleasant surprise, it was. Now, I’m not going to come out and tell you that it was a fine piece of cinematic art, it isn’t. But it is what it was trying to be, a family film with about as many jokes for the kids as there are for the parents, and a mildly respectable plot thrown in. Say anything you want about uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, but he sure does know how to give the audience something entertaining.
The movie starts out by introducing us to the main team of heroes, guinea pigs and wanna be FBI agents who are being trained by their human boss Ben, played by this summer’s bearded wonder, Zack Galifianakis, who is also starring in The Hangover. The team, which he has genetically enhanced, trained in martial arts and given babelfish-like devices so that they can understand and speak English, which is pretty convenient, and completely believable. Speaking of babelfish, Sam Rockwell provided the voice for the team’s Alpha Pig, Darwin. He is joined by guinea pig tough chick Juarez, voiced by Penelope Cruz, and the team’s muscle and comic relief, Blaster, voiced very recognizably by Tracy Morgan. Actually, Blaster pretty much just was Tracy Morgan, much like the Genie in Aladdin was Robin Williams. On the other hand, the team’s tech support is provided by a mole named Speckles, quite unrecognizably voiced by Nic Cage.
When we meet the team they are on the verge of having their funding shut off by the FBI (and Arrested Development’s Will Arnet), so they try to gather intel on the super-evil-bad-guy Saber (Bill Nighy), who is planning on taking over the word in some nefarious way. They go on their mission, things go well, but when their presentation to the FBI comes the next day the information they recovered is corrupted, and they get shut down. From there they end up in a pet store, where they meet up with a rotund and flatulent guinea pig named Hurley (John Favreau) and a hamster that may or may not be part ferret, voiced hilariously by the always great Steve Buscemi). After a few unsuccessful attempts to escape, and one good scare involving a teenage kid and a snake, Juarez and Tracy Morgan are bought, Speckles ends up in the garbage and is presumed dead, and Darwin and Hurley escape and head off together to try to find Ben.
So as not to spoil the movie, I wont go into detail about the rest, but needless to say, all ends well, with our tiny heroes saving the world from near destruction, getting their funding restored, and getting to become full fledged FBI agents. The interesting thing was the way that it happened. There are some things that you start assuming right from the start of the movie yet unlike most other kids movies, and far too many movies for adults, those assumptions don’t all come to pass. There are a few twists, a few curve balls, and the plot does a decent job of keeping your attention for the 89 minute run time.
The humor aimed at the children ranges from childish (mice in the pet store offering sage advice to one of our heroes getting picked up by a human to “Poop in his hand! Poop in his hand!”) to sophomoric (an attempt to light Hurley’s flatulence on fire to get out of their pet shop prison), to down right odd (the girl whose parents buy Jaurez putting her in dresses and smearing he with lipstick). All the kids that we had with us, ranging from 4 to 10 years old, ate up every bit of it, laughing hilariously throughout the film.
The humor aimed at the adults actually hit the mark pretty often, too. There were a lot of pop culture references or gags, like Darwin, in his best Indiana Jones voice, complaining “Dogs. Why does it always have to be dogs,” or while fighting an evil robotic appliance calling out “Yippee-ki-yay, coffeemaker.” At one point Hurley calls Darwin ‘McGyver,’ Tracy Morgan says that Ben pimped their ride when he unveils their new exercise ball based vehicle, and Juarez tells Morgan not to “drop a pellet” as she walks by him shaking off water in slow motion. One of the funnier moments came in a chase scene where the FBI was chasing G Force in their pimped out plastic exercise balls, and one agent said to his partner “Call for backup. Tell them we’re chasing three guinea pigs in mobile spheres” at which the partner starts to pick up the radio, then looks at him and says “I can’t say that!”
The voice actors really made this all work, and were quite good. Sam Rockwell, who’s career has taken anything but a straight path, voices Darwin as the straight man of the movie, setting up others jokes, and grounding it as much as a guinea pig can. Penelope Cruz’ Juarez, constantly playing on the romantic tension with each of the two males, was more sultry than expected, and carried of a very believable tough-yet-girly attitude. Tracy Morgan, as previously mentioned, was Tracy Morgan, just in a 4 inch tall hairy CGI package. He had all the usual Tracy Morgan attitude and craziness, and had a great moment when he was all fired up and yelled out “G Force,” thus naming the team against the wishes of his compatriots. The really amazing work, though, is done by Nic Cage. I didn’t know it was Cage until I looked it up afterward, and even then was surprised, because the voice was sooo different. Plus, there are no stereotypical yelling, angry Nic Cage “I…LOST…MY…HAND” moments. I was shocked after the face at how well he played the character.
Another thing that was really done well was the use of the 3D platform. I recently took my kids to see Pixar’s Up, which is a far more intelligent, well developed, emotionally touching and overall better movie. However Up, which was also presented in 3D, made very little use of it, rarely having anything that jumped or even poked out the screen toward the audience. G Force, on the other hand, was chock full of 3D effects. There were a good number of action sequences that were filled with explosions causing all kinds of debris to fly out the screen toward the audience. There were chase scenes where the chase went right toward or seemingly over the audience. There was a scene where the little pigs shot through pneumatic tubes, providing a 3D roller coaster for the crowd. Of course there was the previously mentioned scene with the snake, which made all the kids jump. This movie really took advantage of the possibilities it had with the 3D to make the action more entertaining. I wouldn’t recommend bothering with 3D for Up, but for G Force it is almost a necessity.
Of course, it wasn’t all good. It was very hard to suspend disbelief and go along with many of the ridiculous scenarios that they had concocted at different of points in the movie. The characters, human and CGI alike, were not particularly developed, and we are basically dropped into what feels like the middle of the story, given no history of Ben and the G Force team, how he came to work with animals, how he found them specifically, and so on. Not that you expect it from a movie like this, but it would have helped if they had put in at least a little. Plus, even taking into account the major plot twists that were rather unexpected, the majority of the plot was standard fare.
In the end, however, what mattered most for our trip, and what likely matters most to any family heading out to see it, is that it was a fairly enjoyable hour and a half. It’s hardly in the category of Shrek or Up or any other animated movie that adults will go see without kids, but for what it was intended to be it hit the mark. The kids will enjoy it, and the parents will have enough to entertain them, too.
For our group, the fun even extended even the end of the showing. The kids have learned that movies nowadays are often showing little tidbits either during or after the credits, so we were all hanging around waiting for the credits to fully roll. As we waited, a reporter from Disney’s family.com website came over and interviewed the kids (if you want you can click here, they’re mentioned near the end). They all gushed excitedly about their favorite parts, and for the parents, seeing thier enjoyment made it that much more worth the while.