- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

The worst thing about “G-Force” — the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced 3-D movie starring computer-animated guinea pigs trained to do the FBI’s bidding — isn’t that the plot is so formulaic that the entire movie can be divined from the first 20 minutes or that it’s not particularly funny, even for a kiddie comedy. The worst thing is what it does to your impression of the talent involved.

Take Sam Rockwell, who voices Darwin, the head guinea pig. If you see this movie, you’ll never again be able to see Mr. Rockwell without thinking of the anthropomorphized rodent he brings to life. It will be impossible to go back and watch his serious work — last year’s “Snow Angels,” for example, in which he plays a down-on-his-luck husband who kills his ex-wife — without envisioning him as a guinea pig.

It doesn’t help that he often looks a little like a guinea pig: scruffy, pouchy cheeks, sad eyes.

Then there’s the non-animated talent. Bill Nighy plays Saber, a businessman who the FBI thinks is selling military technology to the Chinese and has implanted military-grade computer chips in his appliances, from coffee makers to telephones.

Mr. Nighy has never been afraid to slum it — he was wonderful as the mean stepfather in “Shaun of the Dead” and delightfully over the top as the head vampire in “Underworld” — but this is just too much. Did he really sign on to a script that features a fly (computer-animated, naturally) crawling into his nose to distract him from the guinea-spies searching his home for plans about evil coffee makers?

Yet the biggest, most depressing blow has to be the casting of Zach Galifianakis as G-Force’s handler, Ben. The bushy-bearded comedian finally broke through to the mainstream with this summer’s biggest surprise hit, “The Hangover.” His character in that film is very much an extension of the persona he has crafted so carefully in his stand-up act and Internet videos: uncomfortably awkward yet endearingly hilarious.

Mr. Galifianakis throws all that out the window in “G-Force.” He plays a cookie-cutter character, essentially a straight man to a trio of wisecracking oversized hamsters. Gone is the comedic sensation whose odd mentality and willingness to push the limits brought the world “Between Two Ferns” and a series of ads for Absolut with the dadaist “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” guys. (Google those two bits to get a taste of Mr. Galifianakis at his best).

At times it almost seems as if Mr. Galifianakis is doing an impression of a guy playing such a bland character, as if he’s trying to turn the entire role into a piece of performance art that exposes how the Hollywood system homogenizes talent and exceptionalism into mediocrity suitable for children.

More likely, he took the gig for the same reason fellow indie-fave David Cross took a role in the abominable “Alvin and the Chimpmunks” movie two years ago: to buy a house.

TITLE: “G-Force”

RATING: PG for some mild action and rude humor

CREDITS: Directed by Hoyt Yeatman, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

WEB SITE: https://disney.go.com/disneypictures/gforce/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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