G-Force (United States, 2009)July 23, 2009
I feel bad for Hoyt Yeatman. I really do, although perhaps not as bad as I feel for myself for having sat through his feature debut. But here's a guy who has paid his dues. He got started way back in 1977 helping out in the special effects department for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and went on to do effects work in films crossing four decades, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture to Underdog. His reward for all that toiling is the chance to finally helm a feature film - and it turns out to be G-Force. If nothing else, at least this gives him the opportunity to get on board the runaway popularity train that is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The destructive power at the end of G-Force is essentially a Transformer made out of coffee machines, refrigerators, and microwave ovens (instead of cars).
G-Force is targeted at kids with ages in the single-digit range, and it holds little of interest to anyone older. It's the template for either a video game or a Disney theme park ride, or perhaps both. Yet, despite this, all children clearly aren't enamored. More telling than the 800 words I will write about this film were the six uttered by a boy seated several rows behind me. Less than 30 minutes into this 90 minute feature, he asked rather loudly, "Daddy, can we go home now?" I felt the urge to rise and give him a standing ovation.
The movie opens by introducing us to Ben (Zach Galifianakis), a guy who looks like he's recovering from a hangover; his pretty assistant Marcie (Kellie Garner); and their team of four "genetically engineered" rodents: Guinea Pigs Darwin (voice of Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz), and Blaster (Tracy Morgan); and Speckles the mole (Nicolas Cage). Together with a voiceless fly, they form an "elite" unit of the FBI: the G-Force. They are, in fact, so elite that the FBI has decided to close them down (one assumes there were no funding provisions from them in the stimulus legislation), and at the inopportune moment when they have uncovered a plot by electronics magnate Saber (Bill Nighy) to do something dastardly to the world. Most of the movie is spent with the G-Force members eluding capture by the FBI, hiding out in a pet shop, giving treacly sermons about family, and ultimately ending up in a showdown with a Megatron wannabe.
The film is nice enough to look at, although its overall appearance might have been improved without the 3-D effects (although they are generally well applied). The problem is that the extra dimension does not adequately compensate for the diminution of brightness. G-Force ends up looking bland and washed-out through the polarized glasses. I removed them a few times and was astonished at how bright and colorful everything looked. Kids, of course, will want to see this in 3-D because that's the "cooler" way to watch this sort of movie. With the exception of a few "roller coaster" ride moments, there's not much in-your-face stuff in this movie, so it's not hard to surmise that the experience could be better in 2-D.
As one might expect from a director who has spent so many years working in special effects, the CGI is solid. The animals look as good as any animated animals and the faux Transformer is as impressive as anything that was stomping around in Michael Bay's film. But, beyond the visual pomp and circumstance, there's not much to get excited about. The human actors - Zach Galifianakis, Kellie Garner, Will Arnett, Bill Nighy - are props. One wonders if the movie might have worked better had they been animated. The voice work by Sam Rockwell, Nicholas Cage, Jon Favreau, Steve Buscemi, Penelope Cruz, and Tracy Morgan is solid, if a little bland at times.
The 3-D market for kids is so hot right now that I'm afraid we're in for a lot more of these flashy, uninspired productions. Perhaps the most dispiriting thing about G-Force is that it doesn't even pretend to contain anything for parents who have accompanied their offspring. It makes me wonder if there shouldn't be an NP-13 rating (No Patrons over 13 allowed). Ultimately, this is also more about product placement than it is about enjoying the adventures of some talking Guinea Pigs: You've seen the movie, now buy the toys and the video game! That's where the real money is, anyway. Just ask George Lucas. G-Force, like all high profiles summer releases, has already targeted a particular audience - those who relish cute rodents, childish humor, and low-rent spectacle. For such viewers, it will undoubtedly pass a litmus test. After all, it's not so much a bad movie as it is a pointless one, and movie-goers aren't exactly avoiding that sort of thing.
G-Force (United States, 2009)
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kelli Garner, Bill Nighy, Will Arnett; (voices) Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Jon Favreau, Penelope Cruz, Steve Buscemi, Tracy Morgan
Screenplay: The Wibberleys and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Tim Firth, based on a story by Hoyt Yeatman
Cinematography: Bojan Bazelli
Music: Trevor Rabin
U.S. Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures