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Federal pigs

Movies | G-Force emphasis is on spectacle instead of story

Issue: "New faces of New Orleans," Aug. 15, 2009

What's more ridiculous than an elite crew of FBI special agents who happen to be talking guinea pigs? Their mission, of course.

When a billionaire appliance tycoon programs every machine in his empire to carry out global annihilation, it's up to a covert squad of domesticated rodents to save the world. In layman's terms: Coffee makers attacking people mean pet guinea pigs wearing tiny utility belts must stop them. If you're confused, just imagine Mission Impossible meets Stuart Little and you get a pretty good idea of what to expect from G-Force. While the film offers a handful of laughs and one good 3-D effects sequence, the resulting cute and furry spin on the action genre is too frivolous for adults and not charming or entertaining enough for kids.

The adventure begins when the specially trained guinea pigs must prove their worth or lose their program's funding. The miniature agents face imprisonment in a pet store and attacks by sadistic adolescents amidst a thin gag-driven plot. The film's best moments are anthropomorphic setups where the rodents wax philosophical on Facebook, play Dance Dance Revolution, and operate their tiny high-tech gadgetry. The filmmakers have fun mixing kiddie cute with high action. But the simple plot is ludicrous, and the one-note characters leave little room for any genuine audience engagement.

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It must be noted that the movie (rated PG for some mild action and rude humor) gathers a talented collection of comic actors, including the voices of Tracy Morgan, Sam Rockwell, Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Penélope Cruz, and Jon Favreau (with Zach Galifianakis and Will Arnett as human FBI agents). But the comedy never gels, and the emphasis remains on the spectacle and not the story. The 3-D fireworks finale is almost worth the price of a matinee ticket. Almost. It's just too bad Disney couldn't cajole some of the Pixar phenoms to take a crack at crafting a story that resonates on an emotional level.

-Toddy Burton is a professor of Communication Arts at Gordon College in Massachusetts

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