Rodents have always been the animal of choice for animation studios. This time the rodent-roulette has landed on guinea pigs...and secret-agent ones at that.


26 November 2009

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Plot summary

A specially trained squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire from taking over the world.

Rodents have always been the animal of choice for animation studios. This is no surprise as the most famous cartoon character in the world is, of course, a mouse. A fixation that began with Mickey Mouse in 1928 resurfaced in the late nineties with the emergence of CGI in the Stuart Little series and, more recently, Ratatouille, Alvin and the Chipmunks and, the less commercially-successful, The Tale of Desperaux. This time the rodent-roulette has landed on guinea pigs…and secret-agent ones at that.

G-Force is a team of highly-intelligent animal spies comprised of three guinea pigs, a fly called Mooch (who happens to be an expert in surveillance) and Speckles (Nicolas Cage), a technically-gifted mole. The unit is trained by Ben (Zach Galifianakis), the head of a small offshoot research department of the FBI, who communicates with the animals using special language-decoding headsets.

The film begins with the team on a mission to extract data from the laptop of Domestic Appliance Supremo Saber (Bill Nighy) during a launch show, in order to reveal that he is inserting microchips inside his products to allow them to communicate with each other and take over the world. After the acquired data fails to bring to light the expected results, the department is shut down with the animals imprisoned at a local pet store where they meet Hurley (another, slightly fatter guinea pig voiced by Jon Favreau), Bucky the hamster/ferret cross-breed (Steve Buscemi) and a trio of shrill, speech-synchronised mice. It is now up to the guinea pigs, Blaster (Tracy Morgan), Juarez (Penélope Cruz) and, the aptly-named, Darwin (Sam Rockwell), to escape in time to save the world.

G-Force is reminiscent of classic Disney films in that it hammers home, quite explicitly, the message that family is important; a wallowing guinea pig suddenly finds direction in his life when he discovers his long lost brother, a wrongdoer can be put on the right track if he has a family supporting him, and so on. The other unsubtle moral of the film is that “anyone can be special” no matter what their background is. Whilst it is surprising that a highly-structured class system exists in the guinea pig world, it is refreshing to see Disney show that you can be raised in a pet store or abandoned by your parents in South America and still turn out okay. Phew!

Aesthetically, the animation is excellent and the 3D element is certainly a welcome addition. The live action and animation combines seamlessly and never looks out of place. Interestingly, the voice actors weren’t as recognisable as other animated films, despite a marquee line-up, but this worked as a positive. It may have been easy to deduce that Penélope Cruz voices the Spanish female guinea pig, but Nicholas Cage and Steve Buscemi were genuine surprises and that’s testament to the character development present in the film and a refreshing marketing campaign that focused on the concept rather than the stars involved.

G-Force is the best non-Pixar-assisted CGI animated film to date and, quite simply, the finest guinea pig secret-agent film that has ever been made.