As a kiddie movie, which is what it’s advertised to be, Disney’s “G-Force” is a mess, a hodgepodge of dull animated characters voiced by celebrities trotting through the paces of a run-of-the-mill adventure script dotted with the standard-issue poop humor.
But for adults in a certain frame of mind, “G-Force” is something strangely different: A subversive satire of action-movie cliches from the man who knows them best, megaproducer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The G-Force of the title refers not to the birdlike ninjas of the ’70s Japanese cartoon (that would be too cool), but to a trio of commando-trained guinea pigs — stalwart leader Darwin (voiced by Sam Rockwell), feisty Juarez (voiced by Penelope Cruz) and motor-mouthed Blaster (voiced by Tracy Morgan) — and their computer-whiz sidekick, a mole named Speckles (voiced, in his adenoidal “Peggy Sue Got Married” mode, by Nicolas Cage).
The animals’ human trainer, Dan (“The Hangover’s” Zack Galifianakis), aims to prove his team’s skills to his FBI bosses. To do so, Dan sends G-Force to infiltrate the home of computer-software billionaire Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy), where they find evidence of Saber’s global plot to integrate the smart computer chips that Saber has installed in every home appliance.
The FBI isn’t impressed, though, and Dan’s boss (Will Arnett) orders the program canceled. Darwin and his crew escape the Feds’ grasp and land in a pet shop, and plot a way to reunite with Dan and foil Saber’s plot for world domination.
For the kiddie audience, “G-Force” is little more than empty action, a few one-liners and tritely familiar characters — like Hurley (voiced by Jon Favreau), a fat and lazy guinea pig our heroes meet at the pet store, or the human kids, a carbon copy of the evil Sid and tea-partying Hannah from “Toy Story,” who take Blaster and Juarez home to play. It’s not actively harmful to young minds, just banal and predictable.
But there are elements in the script (by married screenwriters Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, the couple who wrote the “National Treasure” films) for movie geeks to appreciate. The killer-robot appliances are an obvious riff on “Transformers,” and the crack commando guinea pigs seem like a pre-emptive strike against the “G.I. Joe” movie arriving in two weeks. And the dialogue is a daffy mixture of action-speak catchphrases — the best being when Darwin battles a cappuccino machine gone wild and yells “Yippie-kai-yay, coffeemaker!” (Try explaining that “Die Hard” reference to your kids.)
The main target of satire is Michael Bay, and Bruckheimer has hired the right man for the job: First-time director Hoyt H. Yeatman Jr. is a veteran visual-effects guy whose long resume includes two Bay/Bruckheimer collaborations, “The Rock” and “Armageddon.” Yeatman stages action moments so over-the-top they literally can’t be contained on the screen. It’s a neat trick, having rodents and debris sometimes flying into the screen’s letterbox bars, that also augments the movie’s 3D effects.
“G-Force” seems to be guided by the principle that action movies have become generic that anybody — whether it’s the puppets of “Team America: World Police” or the rodents here — can be plugged into the hero role and the results would be no different than if Arnold Schwarzenegger was the star. It’s a great conceit for adult movie geeks, but not so successful as children’s entertainment.