Monday, December 6, 2010

Even If You Haven't Seen The Preview Trailer, You've Seen G-Force. (We All Have)

The Good: Moments of performance by the live-action actors
The Bad: Not funny, Not clever, Predictable plot, 3-D effects are unimpressive.
The Basics: Predictable, boring, lacking in humor and with erratic special effects, "G-Force" is a Disney failure not worth seeing (especially in overpriced 3-D)!

Back when I first saw G-Force, I thought there was some irony to it appearing in 3-D; that same week was thw week the masterful Coraline was released on DVD. Coraline was an amazing use of the three-dimensional technology and the spectacle of the film was thrilling and added to the story by making the fantastic seem even more real. Unfortunately, G-Force does not make nearly as good a use of the 3-D technology as Coraline did. In fact, it is hard to see how G-Force got greenlit.

Right upfront, though, it is worth noting that given the choice between catching G-Force in standard theatrical presentation or shelling out the additional money for the 3-D showings, this is one not worth paying the extra bucks for. The 3-D effects are not impressive and they tend to be wasted on gags that have little change in resonance with the standard 2-D version of the film. The story and humor are not enhanced in any significant way by the 3-D effects and the lack of overall quality to the movie is not redeemed by the effects either.

Part of an elite group of government agents, the G-Force, a squad of small mammals who have been specially trained to get into areas humans either cannot get into or the government needs deniability in. The project is seen as a pariah by most of the intelligence community. Despite the goofy antics of the guinea pigs Darwin, Juarez, and Blaster and their technical supports Mooch (a fly) and Speckles (a literal mole), the team trains remarkably well and the group is given an assignment, which is to stop Leonard Saber. Saber's plan is to destroy the world using common household appliances which will run amok and kill everyone.

Despite Saber's plan coming to the attention of the G-Force, the government shuts the project down and the guinea pigs are sent to a pet store. There they meet Hurley and Buckey and find themselves limited. Mooch and the human handler, Ben, work to get the G-Force back in action as Saber launches his plan.

Lately, it seems like perhaps a writer's strike might be a good thing, or perhaps a cleaning of the WGA to allow some fresh new talent in. Disney, frequently creatively stifled, dies a little bit more with this live-action/CG-effect blend movie which is so unoriginal even children are unlikely to be surprised or interested in it. The characters are entirely types - leader (Darwin), muscle (Juarez), hapless geek for comic relief (Blaster) - and none of them come to life with any realism that makes the audience care even a whiff about them.

The computer-generated effects, which dominate the movie given that the film focuses on the CG-animals, primarily the guinea pigs, are average at best. Like many CG-driven movies, the film loses a lot of credibility with the simple act of lighting. Many of the moments in the film that could be harrowing are gutted of emotional resonance - in addition to the viewer not caring about the characters - by the fact that the animals are obviously computer generated. The most frequent tell is that the characters are lit as if from all angles in scenes with an obvious light source. The attention to detail surrounding realism of light and movement is not something that can be suspended in a live-action/CG-effect blend. The whole point of the live action portions - mostly revolving around the G-Force animals interacting with Ben or Leonard Saber - is to create an alternate reality where talking, high-functioning animals are real. We can suspend our disbelief for the basic premise, but when the ridiculous dancing gets old (isn't there an internet site where we can see hamsters dancing for free?!) and the wisecracks fall flat, the fact that the supposedly real animals that the humans are working with or against pull the viewer out of the movie.

That said, there are no real good wisecracks in the movie and the prevalence of everything predictable is problematic. There are the obvious romantic subplots, both between the G-Force members and their handlers and they distract from any real sense of menace in the movie. Sure, it is hard to say there is real menace when the villain wants to take over the world using appliances, but when the movie loses focus on that, it becomes a cheap receptacle for animal humor bathrooming jokes that will not entertain any audiences, save the most unenlightened children.

The plot is similarly predictable and in true Disney tradition, the film both ends without any sense of consequence or ramification and neatly sets up a potential sequel or franchise. Disney yet-again reinforces the idea that no matter how harrowing the circumstances might be, teamwork will get everyone through the crisis and everyone will emerge on the other side unscathed, save the villain. Director Hoyt Yeatman drew the short straw for a directoral debut and given that the script was weak to begin with, the poor execution of special effects does not bode well for Yeatman's career.

Strangely, though, this dismal project attracted some real talent. Tracy Morgan, Steve Buscemi, Will Arnett, and Bill Nighy all lend their talents to G-Force and in most cases they are wasted. Morgan's voicework as Blaster makes him seem like an over-the-top parody of himself and as impolitic as it might seem, his role seems designed to keep the urban flavor of some of the G-Force wisecracks from appearing to simply be the work of Caucasian poseurs. Similarly, Penelope Cruz's voicework as Juarez does little other than perpetrate the stereotype of the saucy Latina.

By contrast, the live action performers, primarily Arnett, Nighy, and Zach Galifianakis are surprisingly good. Nighy is stuck in a monolithic role of the over-the-top villain and Arnett's sense of comic timing is wasted as Kip. Galifianakis creates the perception that his presence in this film is more inspired casting than great acting. Galifianakis, who shone brightly in The Hangover plays essentially the same character in G-Force. As Ben, Galifianakis plays the quiet, hapless genius as opposed to the hapless idiot, but he hits many of the same beats as he did in the adult film in this one. But what all three live-action principle actors do well is work opposite their virtual counterparts. Arnett especially seems to have mastered eyelines and acting opposite nothing.

This is not enough to recommend sitting through G-Force or subjecting one's children to it. Now on DVD, one suspects it is one that Disney will either leave on the shelves in perpetuity or stick back in the vault in hopes that people forget they ever created such a cinematic travesty. Stay in and watch Coraline instead. That's what I'm going to do to clean my palate after this cagedropping.

For other Disney films, please check out my reviews of:
Toy Story 3


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© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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