A fur-covered “A-Team” for the kiddies, “G-Force” is heavy on splashy pyrotechnics and predictably light on plot. No matter: This 3-D action-comedy about guinea pigs as secret agents was engineered in producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s nearly foolproof laboratory. Disney’s spot-on marketing campaign has spawned a huge must-see factor among grade schoolers; boys will be enticed by the pic’s vaunted thrills, and girls by the adorably realistic furballs. While adults will probably find something lacking, “G-Force” should fast-pedal its way to a thunderously successful opening, ultimately doing for fuzzy rodents what “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” did for small canines.
“G-Force” is only the latest iteration of Hollywood’s current infatuation with cute CG rodents. In the past year alone, they’ve gnawed the scenery in “Bolt,” “Bedtime Stories,” “The Tale of Despereaux” and even “Chihuahua.” But “G-Force” takes things to a new level. Here the guinea pigs must save civilization from a dastardly appliance czar aiming for nothing less than global domination.
If the script (from the husband-and-wife writing team the Wibberleys) had fleshed out that concept and managed to sustain a more charismatic villain, the film might have yielded a more compelling conflict than that of skilled heroes fighting an amorphous evil. Longtime visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman Jr., in his feature directing debut, displays ample credentials for action and memorable setpieces.
And the cast is a tyro helmer’s dream: Zach Galifianakis, fresh off his “Hangover,” plays scientific genius (and kindly animal rescuer) Dr. Ben Kendall. Along with his girlfriend, veterinarian Marcie (Kelli Garner), Ben oversees a special team of trained animal operatives. There’s Mooch, a fly that transmits video data; guinea pigs Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz) and Blaster (Tracy Morgan); and a star-nosed mole (Nicolas Cage) specializing in computers. But the FBI has threatened to cut back on funding his work unless Ben can convince the agency otherwise.
So, in a speedy opening sequence that’s little more than a showcase for some breathlessly paced action and dazzling visuals (effects include holography and CG stunts), the G-Force infiltrates the estate of suspicious coffeemaker king Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy) during a presentation on future technology. Stumbling on the entrepreneur’s apparent plans to eradicate civilization via computer virus (“Operation Clusterstorm”) — in fact, Saber’s motives are never really clarified — Darwin copies the data onto a PDA and, aided by his fellow agents, narrowly escapes by a hair. Back at headquarters, the PDA yields nothing.
When the FBI administrators, led by persnickety Agent Kip Killian (an underused Will Arnett), get wind of the botched infiltration, they close Ben’s office and announce their intention to impound the animals. Having considered just this possibility, Ben and Marcie release the gang into civilian life, where they’ll go “undercover” as ordinary critters, residing in a pet shop until they can resume their work.
The pet-shop sequence and its aftermath are among “G-Force’s” funniest and most entertaining scenes. Forced to room with a tubby, overeager guinea pig named Hurley (voiced by Jon Favreau) and a seed-hoarding hamster (Steve Buscemi), the gang face foes of the more pedestrian variety. After a little girl (Piper Mackenzie Harris) and her older brother (Tyler Patrick Jones) adopt Juarez and Blaster, the rodents have to contend with overly aggressive kids whose agenda includes forcing them into battery-operated trucks and hot-pink nail polish. A delightfully rambunctious escape sequence will score big with little ones, as will a clever variation on the hamster-wheel concept.
But by the time the rodents are careening in their rapid-deployment vehicles through a fairgrounds as fireworks ignite, a more cerebral viewer might wonder if “G-Force” was designed to do anything other than deliver a high-octane thrill ride with eye-popping visuals and cuddly creatures; the plot feels squarely like an afterthought.
Nevertheless, the pic’s technical aspects are beyond reproof; it moves at a rapid clip, and there are enough inside jokes for action fans to elicit laughs from adults. One choice morsel: Dueling with an espresso machine gone amok, Darwin yells out, “Yippie-ki-yay, coffeemaker.”