Call the exterminator

g-forceIn 1998, art student Diedre LaCarte started one of the first internet memes with “The Hamster Dance,” a loop of crudely animated rodents gyrating to a sped-up version of Roger Miller’s “Whistle Stop” from Disney’s animated “Robin Hood.”

Oh, what a difference a decade makes.

Now, we are treated to an entire feature-length film devoted to vermin that not only dance, but are involved in international intrigue and voiced by such talented actors as Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz and Tracey Morgan and produced by blockbuster-generator Jerry Bruckheimer.

And yet, throughout, I found myself longing for the comparatively sweet relief of that two-minute Alvin and the Chipmunks knockoff, knowing that my viewing sentence would be reduced dramatically.

Instead, I endured the 90-plus minutes of “G-Force,” which succeeded in only letting my anger bubble to a boil.

Frustratingly loud, cheap and obvious, “G-Force” represents the lowest common denominator of pandering to its audience, specifically the single-digit-aged members to which it is so obviously meant to manipulate.

Rockwell voices Darwin, the leader of a trained group of guinea pigs (and, for no real apparent reason, a mole and housefly) that infiltrate top-secret missions that cannot be carried out by humans.

I can almost envision the pitch for the film in Bruckheimer’s office immediately following the success of the CGI “Alvin and the Chipmunks” film a few years ago, where Jerry had some stale action-flick script that he regretfully promised to produce, but has kept under his coffee mugs for a few years.

He makes a few calls to cash in some favors from friends (“It’ll only be a few days of voicework, I promise,”) and proceeded through the standard-issue checklist of action and kiddie flicks to create the unholy monstrosity known as “G-Force.”

The plot is of the stale world-domination variety, with a blank-faced Bill Nighy as the chief bad guy and, what has now become common in kiddie fare, a few edgy comedians who should have known better populating the other live-action spots. In “G-Force” it’s a stoic Zack Galifinakis (who looks like he welcomes death’s icy grip in every scene in which he must talk to these CGI varmints) and Will Arnett who fulfill the duties.

For the guinea pigs, all the edge Rockwell brings to his live-action roles is blunted, while Cruz and Morgan are resorted to ethnic and racial stereotypes (seriously, did Morgan utter the line “Let’s get this party started!” at gunpoint, or did he happily oblige?) that are hard to excuse.

Then, as though the film knew it was going to be on the same summer slate as the latest “Transformers” film, the end turns into a bizarre, left-field grasp at desperation in which, yes, a bunch of machines merge together to create an skyscraper-sized killer robot.

I know many may take issue with the fact that it’s a film designed for children, but in a year that has produced “Coraline” and “Up,” (and even more marginal fare like “Monsters vs. Aliens”), it is difficult to give such a lackadaisical effort a passing grade.

Too often, we dismiss or overlook faults in these films because they are meant for youngsters, but this one feels as though it’s every move is created by focus groups, committees and marketing departments. Not even the guinea pigs themselves are discernible (stereotypes aside) and are distinguished only by their flatulence.

I wish I was kidding.

The most frustrating aspect to “G-Force” is that there is a hint of something creative at it core. The fact that pets (much like toys) have a secret life outside their daily interactions with humans is one that could be a wonderful, childlike journey. Recently, Disney’s “Bolt” came close to capturing this, and that film’s hamster was responsible for the film’s highlights. But “G-Force” makes every possible move to make sure the right demographics, tie-ins, and latest top-40 hits are covered that there is little room for such creativity, spontaneity, or vocal improvisation.

In fact, you are more apt to find surprises by following the “Hamster Dance’s” lead, Hampton on Twitter (He just bought a new 24-inch iMac, and the band is possibly going to cover “These Boots are Made for Walkin”). A hamster getting excited about a computer 10 times his size is certainly far more interesting than anything those guinea pigs are up to in “G-Force.”

~ by usesoapfilm on July 31, 2009.

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