G-Force: If It Walks In Poop, And It Talks About Poop, It Must Be…
When the stereotypical African-American guinea pig (with black fur, in case we didn’t understand) looks out at the audience and yells, “That was off the hizook!” I gave up any hope of enjoying this film. Guinea pigs in real life are adorable creatures, hilarious in movement and sound and heartwarming in spirit. Guinea pigs in this film walk like humans, speak in slang, and are not hilarious or heartwarming in any sense of the word. The films has its moments where you wonder if it will start to have fun with its idea and show some wit in the execution. Unfortunately, the dialogue is cringeworthy (even for a children’s film), the pop soundtrack is blaring and obnoxious, and it forces anyone over the age of ten to constantly check their watches, even as it references movies no one under the age of ten would understand. I’m sure it will be a giant hit at the box office, which is depressing considering Up, Harry Potter 6, and Ice Age 3 remain in theaters.
Zach Galifianakis is Ben, a scientist working for the government who discovers that guinea pigs share a large amount of genetic code with humans, so he decides to train them to be super spies. No, these are not genetically altered guinea pigs; these are just very well trained guinea pigs. This wouldn’t annoy me in a film where logic should be shot from a cannon into another galaxy, except the film makes a key plot point that the guinea pigs think they’re genetically altered, when in fact they’re ordinary guinea pigs who have always contained the ability to drive cars, shoot guns, type on computers, and so on. What Ben teaches them is to believe in themselves. I can’t wait to teach my guinea pig how to fight killer robots by instilling in them a sense of self-confidence.
The guinea pigs are as follows. There’s Darwin, the Hero (Sam Rockwell). There’s Blaster, the African-American One (Tracy Morgan). There’s Juarez, the Sassy Latina (Penelope Cruz). There’s Speckles, a mole who is the Computer Nerd (an unrecognizable Nicolas Cage). Finally, there’s Hurley, the Fat Idiot (Jon Favreau). Tangentially, it seems that in movies, fat people are only enormously smart or enormously stupid– no in-between. I digress. They do things like update Facebook, play Dance Dance Revolution, and drive cars made of big hamster balls in their spare time. Blaster hits on Juarez, who is a tease to both Juarez and Hurley. After all, black people lust after women, and Latina women are giant teases. I digress again. They run a secret mission to infiltrate the mansion of Saber (Bill Nighy, who always has fun in roles like this), who is behind a dastardly secret mission called Clusterstorm that somehow involves the everyday electronic house supplies he sells across America and computer chips he has installed into all of them. The mission is a success… or so they think.
When they return to prove their worth to special agents in the FBI, including leader Will Arnett, Speckles reveals that the information on the disk Darwin stole isn’t what he thought it was. The unit is shut down, and since the guinea pigs can talk (to some people, but not to others… it’s unclear how that works and it stays that way), they are threats to the government and must be taken in. They escape, and are taken in a truck to… a pet shop. They try to escape, and they meet Hurley and a psycho hamster, playing the usual psycho Steve Buscemi role, and voiced by… Steve Buscemi.
Buscemi usually has fun in these roles, but you can tell that he is embarrassed by his lines in this. He’s a hamster who is half-ferret… or something. That’s the joke, and if you think a hamster having potential ferret DNA in his background is inherently funny, there are at least 5-10 minutes of film spent on this subject, milking it for laughs. His denial that he’s half-ferret, his revelation that he is half-ferret, then at the end, he shakes his butt during a dance sequence and exclaims, “Oh yeah, this ferret can get down!” When Buscemi said this, I imagined two things: 1. The writers of the film high-fiving one another, thinking the call-back to the ferret running gag would absolutely kill at the end. 2. Buscemi reading the line on the page, then immediately phoning the producer asking for double his usual asking price.
Then, there’s a twist. A character dies, and it’s revealed that Bill Nighy’s co-conspirator in his evil scheme only communicates via voice– he won’t let Nighy see him. Anyone who has ever seen an action movie, spy movie, or any movie period knows that the character that died is in fact the evil villain. In fact, if you read the third and fourth paragraph of this review, you will figure it out easily and maybe even get a mild chuckle at the play-on-words. Perhaps this revelation is pulled off slicker than I imagine it is, since when this character swivels around in his Villain’s Chair, the kids in the audience cheered. Or maybe they just were finally relieved to have it revealed. Again, the film goes out of its way and dedicates several scenes to how sad the characters are that this character has died and how guilty they feel. Every fiber of my being wanted during these scenes to stand up and scream, “He’s not dead! He’s alive and the villain!” and storm out of the theater.
Oh, and the evil scheme? The household electronic devices detect a pulse from a master source, their computer chip goes evil, and they become weapon-wielding robots. In fact, they are Transformers. It’s a literal rip-off of multiple sequences from both Transformers films, although I was revealed the shot length is five times longer in G-Force than in those films, so it’s easier on the eyes. In fact, a couple of other compliments for the film: Zach Galifianakis is well-cast in a role that requires the guy to seem incredibly strange, since he spends his whole life with rodents and bugs. Nicolas Cage has fun doing a spot-on imitation of Professor Frick from The Simpsons, and I was stunned when I saw in the credits who it was. There are one or two scenes that made me think about how hard it would be for a rodent or insect spy, especially a scene in a pet store, where a spy fly (yes, you read that correctly) has to fly through cages filled with chameleons, frogs, and Venus fly traps.
Finally, there are many references to better action movies. Die Hard, Indiana Jones, Apocalypse Now, and Scarface are all definitely mentioned with exact quotes. Some of these are really, really painful. When Darwin is fighting an espresso machine, and exclaims, “Yippee-ki-yay, Coffee Maker!” I almost smiled, until I realized literally zero kids in the audience understood the reference, and literally zero adults in the audience were still tuned in to the action. Hurley lets out a massive fart that makes the mice yell, “The horror! The horror!,” and then Hurley yells, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” which (a) makes no sense, (b) isn’t funny, and (c) made me bitter when they didn’t take the parody all the way and do some sort of comparison between Hurley’s weight and Brando’s weight. The worst, by far, is when Darwin says, “Say hello to my little friend.” I cannot remember the last time this was funny in any movie post-Scarface, yet it is the most-parodied line in all of cinema, and usually always in kid films, where the reference undoubtedly is lost. While it’s obvious these references should entertain the adults in the audience, just referencing a better film isn’t enough– that’s the school of thought of the folks who made Date Movie, Disaster Movie, et al.
This film should not have made me so uncomfortable. I realize this. It’s just a kid’s movie. But then again, this film should not have been nearly as bad as it was. It’s frenetic energy without coherence, parody without wit, effects without amazement. It forgets the rules of its universe as quickly as it invents them, and thus the story is rendered completely useless. It’s a film based on the concept that talking animals are funny, and the idea ends there. The director, Hoyt Yeatman, at least creates a good visual style in his first real directorial outing (he has been the visual effects supervisor on many superior films). The script, by the Wibberleys, made me long for the breezy fun of their other hit films, the National Treasure series. While leaving the theater, two people walked behind me. They were country folk, clearly out for a night on the town. One said to the other: “Was that the best movie you’ve seen this summer?” The other said back, “This is the first movie I’ve seen so far,” then paused, and continued, “so I can’t compare.” If G-Force is the only movie you’ve seen, and you still can’t call it the best film you’ve seen, then there are some serious issues with the quality of the movie.
Final note: Gabriel Casseus and Jack Conley got the only laughs in this movie from me, as two FBI agents being instructed to pursue guinea pigs, including at one point in a car chase. They are incredulous as we are. I imagined a better film about these two FBI agents, where the guinea pigs are the villains and they are baffled by how these guinea pigs continue to evade them.