There’s something about a great children’s movie which lets us release our preconceived ideas about the fantastical, the magical and the impossible to fully embrace the unbelievable. It’s not that we turn our brains off; it’s that we bend the rules, allowing us to accept a fictional reality filled with imaginative characters grander than we could ever make believe, yet more human than our closest friends. Sometimes we need to follow the second star on the right straight on til morning to learn about growing up, search for a magical Horcrux to be stunned by ultimate self-sacrifice or escape in a house balloon to find out we can still make a difference in a child’s life.
And sometimes a children’s movie becomes so obsessed with the fantastical concept it created, it doesn’t even bother giving the viewer a reason to care.
Stupid, humorless and devoid of even the faintest trace of honesty, G-Force is an excruciating eighty-nine minutes filled with cardboard cutout caricatures bantering back-and-forth in tired clichés and hip slogans the tween crowd could have gotten behind five years ago. It’s also lazy, unoriginal, ignorant and overly reliant on pointless pop culture references; though, if luck holds, those bad shoutouts to terrible television programs like Pimp My Ride should curse it into obscurity within five years. Then again, if you ask the screenwriters, they’d probably tell you none of those critiques matter because there’s talking guinea pigs. And that has to be funny, right?
Ben (Zach Galifianakis) is an FBI agent, scientist and man with a beard bizarrely concerned about his weight. He’s devoted the last few years of his life to engineering a militia of talking, crime-fighting guinea pigs, though confusingly not bothered to tell his boss (Will Arnett). I guess giving animals the power to talk is something to be embarrassed about. Worried the program may lose funding after its next status review (How in the bloody hell could it lose funding when it has given animals the ability to communicate?), Ben sends the rodents on a secret mission into the home of a communications CEO (Bill Nighy) on little more than a hunch because, apparently, gross abuses of personal liberties by totalitarian governmental regimes is perfect fodder for comedy. You know, when talking guinea pigs are involved.
As expected, the FBI decides to shut Ben and his flock of wannabee ferrets down, and the team is put up for adoption at a local pet store where they meet a guinea pig with a flatulence problem (Jon Favreau) and a hamster (Steve Buscemi) who lives in a log cabin. Yes, like Abraham Lincoln. But see---it’s funny because he’s a hamster. Still convinced some chicanery is afoot with that CEO, the guinea pigs break out of captivity thanks to a fortuitous appearance by Loudon Wainwright III and his gender-roles-loving grandchildren (the girl adopts Penelope Cruz so she can put on make-up and the boy goes with Tracy Morgan in order to subject him to his sociopathic behavior) and reconvene with their leader Ben who has just designed hamster balls which can outrun (outspin?) FBI-issued SUVs.
Now, if at this point in the review, you’re still thinking, “God, I think these talking guinea pigs are going to be hysterical.”, please stop reading. Drag your mouse up to the right hand corner and select the “x.” Walk to your nearest theater and fork over nine dollars so Jerry Bruckheimer can buy a thirtieth jet ski or put a second sunroom in his spacious beachfront mansion. Good.
Everyone with plans to see this disaster has now bailed. Alright then let’s talk about the climax, quite possibly the most illogical, common-sense defying imbecilic hiccup I have witnessed in my decades of movie-viewing. That CEO I talked about earlier? Everything in his vast empire has a high-powered microchip installed in it which, when activated via satellite, transforms (yes, transforms) into villainous robots. That coffee maker someone just bought on sale for 19.99? It has a multi-million dollar microchip inside which is in constant communication with a satelite orbiting the Earth. Your iPhone recently reduced to 99.99? Really a trained killing machine. Think of it like a smart bomb--but with the power to think and act for itself rather than have its coordinates corrected via computer. And available at your local Wal-Mart. Genius.
As I alluded to in my introduction, the problem with G-Force is not its premise. I am always willing to take the ride, especially in a children’s movie, no matter how outrageously laughable the original premise might seem. One hundred and one dogs hiding from a heinous woman hell-bent on using their bodies to make coats? Fine. Whatever. Give me lovable characters interacting and changing in a strange environment, and I’ll make the leap with you. But don’t expect me to ignore plot holes, get behind bad ethnic stereotypes and embrace a vision which is, frankly, nothing more than a dumb marketing concept executives figured stupid kids would get behind.
To simply call this movie shitty would be an insult to Obsessed and Transformers 2, but at least it has talking guinea pigs.