July 30, 2009

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G-Force (PG)
Guinea pigs go to great lengths to save the world while their movie goes nowhere in G-Force, an OK-looking but otherwise lifeless animated/live-action Disney adventure.

Human scientist Ben (Zach Galifianakis) is about to have his FBI funding pulled even though he feels his experiments that have created a spy-plane-like fly, an army of act-on-command cockroaches and, most impressive of all, talking secret agent guinea pigs have been successful. No dice, says the team of FBI know-nothings headed by Kip Killian (Will Arnett); round up the animals. But the G-Force team — leader Darwin (voice of Sam Rockwell), sassy female Juarez (voice of Penelope Cruz), Tracy-Morgan-sounding Blaster (voice of Tracy Morgan) and a mildly icky-looking, tech-support-providing mole, Speckles (voice of Nicolas Cage) — is hot on the trail of potential international bad guy Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy) and they aren’t willing to give up now. So they escape FBI custody and end up at a pet shop, where some of them are adopted by horrible children, some of them hang out with a slobby guinea pig named Hurley (voice of Jon Favreau) and a squirrelly hamster named Bucky (Steve Buscemi), and some of them get crushed in a garbage truck.

There was maybe one big laugh in this movie, a joke by the Morgan-voiced guinea pig that depending on how you look at it might be mildly racist. The people around me in the packed theater laughed a hearty but slightly tired laugh, the way you might laugh at a clever line on an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond viewed at the end of a long day. It wasn’t a “this is hilarious” laugh, it was a “finally, something sorta worth laughing at” laugh. Otherwise, there were chuckles here and there from the kids, a few less frequently from the parents. But this leaden, dialogue-heavy box of sticky gummy bears did not sweep anybody up into its adventure the way even middling kids movies can. I saw it in 3-D — effects which were perfectly “meh” but, specifically for me sitting closer than I’d usually like to the screen, the 3-D was a little headache-inducing. (I don’t think not finding a good seat will be that big a problem for future screenings).

And despite that added dimension, the movie felt flat. Its characters were boring (neither the animated nor the live-action beings had any life in their expressions or their voices), its story needlessly complex in parts and dragging in others. I would almost say that the movie felt like an afterthought to some kind of merchandise marketing campaign, but I don’t think it makes its audience care enough about any one character to want to buy their plush toy or their video game.

Now that we’re in the muggy part of summer, the standard for movie entertainment is admittedly lower — the kids need to be adequately entertained and the parents need to be not-annoyed while they enjoy the air-conditioning. Even by these ambitionless standards, G-Force doesn’t make the grade. C-

Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor. Directed by Hoyt Yeatman and written by Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Tim Firth and Hoyt Yeatman, G-Force is an hour and 28 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Disney.