Screenwriters: Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Tim Firth
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy, Jon Favreau, Penelope Cruz, Steve Buscemi, Zach Galifianakis, Will Arnett
Running time: 88 mins
A gaggle of guinea pigs do Mission: Impossible in G-Force, a part live-action part CGI 3D adventure, but even with a lot of fancy gadgetry, not much is accomplished. Somehow the techno wizards at Disney, led by first-time director Hoyt Yeatman, have managed to override all the fun. Fans of Sam Rockwell, famed for his quirky charm, will be especially disappointed by his voicing of Darwin. He's a fuzzily-drawn hero with about as much personality as something the cat coughed up. Likewise, the voice of Nicolas Cage is tough to discern, sapped as it is of all its moody character.
Check the credits and you'll figure out that Cage is the voice of the mole, Speckles; the geek in the hidey-hole who oversees all movement on the ground. In contrast Darwin is the outgoing type, always at the sharp end of the action just ahead of sultry martial arts pro Juarez (the lisping Penelope Cruz) and wisecracking weapons expert Blaster (comedian Tracy Morgan). They've been specially trained by the US government to go where Tom Cruise just isn't quite small enough to go, in this case stealing a microchip from inside a computer designed by kitchen appliance magnate Saber (Bill Nighy). Apparently, he has a dastardly plan to take over the world with an army of tricked out cappuccino machines and a rearguard of electric hand whisks...
Darwin retrieves the chip in a busy opening sequence and from there the mission is vague. The stolen info isn't enough to warrant Saber's arrest so the government (represented by an officious Will Arnett) threatens to disband G-Force. Then, in an awkward twist to events, the guinea pigs end up in a pet shop where they're promptly sold and launch a new quest for freedom. It's a pity they don't get to hang around at the store because Steve Buscemi's paranoid hamster (he denies being part ferret!) is by far the most entertaining fur-ball of the bunch. He's left behind when Darwin hooks up with an overweight guinea pig Hurley (Jon Favreau) and pounds the street hoping to chance upon the evidence that will incriminate Saber.
It all feels unnervingly random and kids, though they might enjoy the spectacle of a guinea pig playing Evil Knievel with toy cars, will surely find the story hard to follow. Every now and then, Yeatman throws in another distraction, like a high-speed chase that pits a fleet of sedans against the hamsters in their turbocharged plastic balls. Even so, the 3D vista fails to enhance the experience. It feels more like a gimmick hastily tacked on in post-production to try to bring a flat story to life. What's more disappointing than the lack of technical ingenuity is the scarcity of laughs. Apart from the chase gag and Buscemi's twitchy turn, Yeatman struggles to show the funny side of rodents saving the world. Morgan's jabbering jive talk feels stale and, meanwhile, the brilliant Bill Nighy never gets a chance to cut loose as the bad guy. Without a strong villain, a charismatic hero or a clear quest, it's all just a pointless frenzy, an exercise in going nowhere fast. A bit like a hamster on a wheel.
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