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MOVIE REVIEW

G-Force

Armed and fuzzy: Guinea pig super spies face a formidable foe in ‘G-Force’: the plot

From left: Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz), and Blaster (Tracy Morgan) make up the team of special operatives in 'G-Force.' From left: Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penelope Cruz), and Blaster (Tracy Morgan) make up the team of special operatives in "G-Force." (AP Photo/Disney)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / July 24, 2009

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"G-Force’’ represents an inconceivably tragic waste of a brilliant idea. Frankly, if you can’t squeeze a decent movie out of talking 3-D superagent guinea pigs - complete with itty-bitty night-vision goggles and jet-propelled grappling hooks - you may as well throw in the towel and consider a career in insurance.

Yes, I’m talking to you, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Hoyt Yeatman, writers Cormac and Marianne Wibberley and the other four (at least) uncredited writers. “G-Force’’ looks great, moves fast, and will amuse kids under 8 or so, although it’d help if they already had a sugar buzz on. For anyone else, the goofy high concept quickly gives way to standard family flick fart gags, boilerplate writing, and soggy moralizing. It’s a Disney co-production, but it’s obvious no one walked down the hall to consult Pixar.

The first few scenes do get your hopes up. Who wouldn’t get a horselaugh from the sight of Zach Galifianakis, the wild child of “The Hangover,’’ as an FBI handler soberly discussing mission strategy with a digitally animated Cavia porcellus? The cast is high-end for this sort of thing: Sam Rockwell provides the voice of team leader Darwin - a sort of Tom Cruise of guinea pigs - and Penelope Cruz and Tracy Morgan are on hand as his colleagues in action, Juarez and Blaster. The great British character actor Bill Nighy plays the human villain, an international appliance titan with visions of world domination.

The voice of Speckles, a star-nosed mole who’s the team’s technical guru, turns out to be Nicolas Cage, recycling his adenoidal whine from “Peggy Sue Got Married.’’ Once the G-Force has its funding revoked by a meanie FBI overseer (Will Arnett) and the characters have to hit the pavement, they encounter a pet-shop guinea pig - a guinea porker, really - voiced by Jon Favreau. His cage-mate is the funniest character in the movie, a weaselly little hamster played by Brooklyn’s finest motormouth, Steve Buscemi.

(Here’s a game I play, by the way: When actors I generally respect show up in one of these silly summer behemoths, I always wonder if they have college-age kids. You’d be surprised how often they do. Buscemi does, and tuition isn’t getting any cheaper.)

The problem with “G-Force’’ is that its creativity, and thus its entertainment value, doesn’t extend an inch beyond the initial idea. The story line is a mishmash of every “Mission: Impossible’’ cliché in the playbook, and once the novelty of seeing them acted out by tiny furry hyperrealistic cartoon characters wears off, it’s like watching a Xerox of a Xerox.

This despite the usual Bruckheimer indulgences: high-speed chase scenes, random explosions, flatulence. The script, which feels committeed to death, has a little bit of everything, including a “Transformers’’ rip-off sequence and many occasions for the urban slang Morgan mangles so smartly on “30 Rock.’’ Here it just sounds like pandering. Director Yeatman, making his feature debut after a successful career as a visual effects expert, busies himself with the digital rendering (which is very well done) and as many in-your-face 3-D shots as he can muster. “G-Force’’ is the opposite of Pixar’s “Up’’ in this regard; if it’s not comin’ at ya, it’s not worthy of our attention.

Despite this, the movie’s an enervating experience. You can take the whole family; I did. We all found ourselves dozing off at points, snapping back to attention only during the enjoyably dippy dance-happy end credits. And this from a clan predisposed to like any and all movies featuring talking rodents. The general consensus on this one: Rats.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

G-FORCE Directed by: Hoyt Yeatman

Written by: Cormac and Marianne Wibberley

Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Bill Nighy, the voices of Sam Rockwell, Jon Favreau, Penelope Cruz, Tracy Morgan, Steve Buscemi, Nicolas Cage

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs; in selected theaters in 3-D

Running time: 89 minutes

Rated: PG (mild action, rude humor)

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