Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
August 2009

Mission impossible

Try as the filmmakers might, they just can't make a movie about talking guinea pigs appealing

Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Hoyt Yeatman
Screenplay: Cormac Wibberley and Marianne Wibberley
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Zach Galifianakis, Tracy Morgan, Penelope Cruz, Bill Nighy, Nicolas Cage, Jon Favreau, Kelli Garner and Steve Buscemi
Rated PG / 1 hour, 29 minutes
(out of four)

G-Force is a movie about guinea pigs who work for the U.S. government as members of a top-secret surveillance and espionage team. The animals are CGI, the humans are live-action. The animals talk and fart.

This much is all apparent, right? OK. Then surely everyone must have known that this was going to appeal to very small children. In fact, we know they knew that, since the dialogue and jokes consist of the kind of material typically reserved for Saturday morning. I don't begrudge the film that - kids make a robust audience.

What doesn't make sense is why, given the extremely limited audience for this movie, the filmmakers felt it necessary to have a narrative and satirical sophistication that will go right over every 5-year-old's head. This is a movie tinged with ironic posturing that deliberately calls to mind countless action, spy and war movies - but who in the audience is going to appreciate that element?

It's not simply a matter of having the best of both worlds, as many of the best family films do. Those of us older than the target audience may smile at a few of G-Force's clever touches, but we can only tolerate the rest for so long. This is a movie with the structural refinement of a South Park episode (and that's a compliment - Trey Parker knows structure backward and forward), but dumbed down for the kiddie set.

(I also have a feeling the movie may be autobiographical - I mean, the last name of the credited co-writers is "Wibberley," which sounds conspicuously like something you'd name an animated squirrel, hamster, guinea pig or giraffe. Has anyone seen an actual picture of these "Wibberleys"? But I digress.)

It's all rather innocuous, really. It's certainly not the insufferable pap that it could have been. It's just that it seems too much effort was wasted attempting something that won't be appreciated by the people the movie is designed for.

For that matter, in cases like this, I always wonder what the motivation is for getting recognizable (and expensive) stars. G-Force's human roles are filled by Will Arnett, Bill Nighy and Zach Galifianakis, and our furry animated friends are voiced by the likes of Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz, Sam Rockwell and Steve Buscemi, among others.

If that's simply indicative of director Hoyt Yeatman and his team trying to make the best movie possible with their resources, more power to them. But I hardly think it makes business sense. I mean, are a few extra toddlers going to rush to the theatre for the chance to hear Oscar winners do funny voices of moles and hamsters?

And given the dubious quality of the writing, even this cast can only elevate the material so far. Certainly not far enough.

But, oh yeah, what is the movie about? Well, talking CGI guinea pigs, of course. Spearheaded by government sideshow Ben (Galifianakis), the G-Force is a special ops team made up of Darwin (voiced by Rockwell), Juarez (Cruz), Blaster (Tracy Morgan) and Speckles (Cage), a mole.

They've been commissioned to hack into the corporate files of Leonard Saber (Nighy), who is under federal investigation. But then - are you ready for this? - the government wants to shut G-Force down!

Will our heroes prove their valor in the face of adversity and prove the suits wrong? Oh, I'm not that easy - you'll just have to see for yourself.

The truth is G-Force isn't nearly as bad as it had the capacity to be - individual scenes are clever, the special effects are passable and it's all rather harmless. But I just wonder if all that effort wouldn't have been put to better use elsewhere.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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