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Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Little-Late Film Review: G-Force (2009)

Hollywood shows a great deal of contempt for younger viewers. This is evident despite the fact that big-Hollywood family films are often among the highest-grossing theatrical releases. Disney is a company held in high esteem for being a source of quality family entertainment… fifty years ago. Now it is a schlock factory that pumps out one mediocre title after another attempting to generate enough coin to fund their enterprise between the one annual release they actually care about: their Pixar-cash-cow masterpiece. So, in between great films like Up and Wall-e, we get boring crap like G-Force (I am aware that Pixar MADE Up and Wall-e, but Disney is its production house and publisher, so they do have a say in what comes out of that has their name plastered on it).

G-Force is an example of an idea born from the “Random Movie Plot Card Game.” This being a series of cards big studios seem to abuse to give their less-creative production teams something to, well, create. So they scatter the cards face down in a small baking sheet; they then draw three or so cards. So in this case, it’s obvious they drew Spy, Rodent and Comedy. So this Spy/Rodent/Comedy is discussed and in about four hours they have the basic plot for a screenplay. Two days later, it’s time to start casting!

Okay, okay, I’m sure they put more effort into it than that. And that is what is truly sad about G-Force. The extremely generic, uninspired and completely clich├ęd plot involves a small team of guinea pigs (and one mole) who are trained to execute very delicate missions without detection. They are good at what they do, for rodents. They seem to have a great deal of understanding about everything, which leads to some stand-out-stupid moments later, but I digress.

Their team is disbanded by the FBI after it is learned that they gained evidence of a conspiracy to turn our common household appliances against us using satellites to manipulate high-powered processors embedded into each device. Blah, blah, blah. It’s all been done before (Barenaked Ladies; pretty good song) and we know how it ends.

This being a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, there has to be explodiness right? Yep! There is plenty of destruction and mayhem for your sadistic eight-year-old’s amusement. These “action scenes” come in the form of a coffee-maker turning into a five-pound death-dealing device that throws razor blades and pursues our heroes through a store display window and out into the street. Good thing it’s no match for a couple of white-walls that roll over it, converting it from a deadly robot to a less-deadly scrap heap.

There are other action scenes, and some are well done, they just aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. Think about this for a minute. They made a movie. A movie about GUINEA PIG SECRET AGENTS and they couldn’t think of one funny, original, intelligent thing to do with the plot?! This is testament to the creative wastelands that are the big studios, and also telling about how they feel about your kids. They know your kids will want to see the movie, because it’s all CGI’d up and stuff, and they know you’ll shell out the dough for them just to shut them up about it. America is duped like this every year, over and over, starting somewhere around May 5th.

G-Force overlays the CGI rodents with live action but it doesn’t look or feel right. They don’t seem like they are part of the world. They seem either like cheaply-done cereal mascots that just jumped off the box or fluffy alcohol-induced hallucinations. The animation on the individual characters is okay, but compared to higher-quality films like Ratatouille, it seems sort of understated and unnatural. The voice acting is okay, filling out the quotas for the various stereotypes needed to generate much of the film’s empty humor. Jon Favreau voices Hurley, the flatulent fat one; Penelope Cruz voices Juarez, the sexy vixen; Tracy Morgan voices Blaster, the loud-mouthed one-liner-spewing screwball character; and Sam Rockwell is Darwin, the leader; because he falls into that very simple “the white guy” category, he has no defining qualities at all.

The live actors serve very little purpose here. Face it, they weren’t intended to be the stars of this show. However, considering that they got some really talented people to work on this project, you’d think they’d give them something to do on screen right? WRONG! We can’t go upstaging the animated action heroes now can we?! How do you include Zach Galifianakis, Will Arnett and Bill Nighy and not give them anything funny or even entertaining to say or do? This just shows you how much of a waste this project is. All of these truly talented actors, in voice and in the flesh, and all the filmmakers can do is have them spout lazily-conceived dialogue that was obviously thrown together with some sort of screenplay-generating software. Such a waste…

The screenplay is the result of the Wibberly siblings. These two wrote such “masterpieces” as I Spy, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, The 6th Day and (shutter) Bad Boys II (Wha‘?! You ain’ seen Bad Boys II?!). If you have not seen any of these movies, let me explain very simply. They are all terrible. They also wrote National Treasure, which was a little better, but not by much. They mostly specialize in the pattern of: Open scene; dialogue to lead; big stunt; actors say something funny; repeat for two hours. The next project these two are working on is a courtroom TV drama.

Directorially, G-Force isn’t bad. There are some shots that do well to scale the characters to the much bigger world out there and some of the action scenes are well done, it is just not enough to save this vapid project. There isn’t enough life or creativity in this film to make it a worthwhile piece of entertainment. With so many great family films to watch with your kids, classics like Willy Wonka and the Wizard of Oz, why waste your time with this poorly conceived, only decently-executed dribble that will not inspire one ounce of imagination in their growing brains?

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