The new Disney macho rodent action picture "G-Force" skews toward preteens in self-explanatory ways, promising gadgets, gizmos and guinea pigs in 3-D. The script comes from the Wibberleys (Marianne and Cormac, husband and wife), who already sound like their own Disney TV series, though they worked on everything from the second, excremental "Bad Boys" to "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," along with the kid-aimed remake of "The Shaggy Dog" and the "National Treasure" pictures. Sample dialogue here: "Get your butt out of my face!" "Get your face out of my butt!"
But, in other ways, "G-Force" has the vibe of a typical R-rated Jerry Bruckheimer headbanger. Its sensibility isn't so much childish as smarmily adolescent. What's with the shot of the babe guinea pig, voiced by Penelope Cruz, rising out of the water in slow motion, glistening wet, like an anonymous music video vixen? It's a joke, but the audience just stared at it, muttering.
Producer Bruckheimer and his first-time director, visual effects veteran Hoyt H. Yeatman Jr., see no stylistic difference between the frenetic derring-do of "G-Force" and the atmosphere of such Bruckheimer hits as "Con Air" or "The Rock." I sort of like "The Rock," but that doesn't mean I'd like to see "The Rock" with computer-generated commando critters dropped into it.
The film warns against technology running amok, which affords parents a teaching moment regarding the definition of the word "hypocrisy." Premise: Bill Nighy's consumer-electronics mogul plans to take over the world. U.S. government-funded guinea pigs (Zach Galifianakis plays their human handler, who gets shut down by his bosses) must prevent the worst. The pacing's unvaryingly nervous, as if a gerbil directed it, and the peril and callous human behavior remains ever-present.
It is a very lucky thing indeed that Nicolas Cage provides the stuffy-nose, uber-nerd voice of the commando mole, Speckles. Cage's amusing vocal characterization single-handedly gives this energetically soulless enterprise some personality. Sam Rockwell voices the steely, self-reliant rodent lead, Darwin, and, like Cage, he does what he can with virtually laugh-free material. Tracy Morgan is Blaster, who is, you know, a ghetto blaster, perpetually macking on Juarez (Cruz) and talkin' smack and generally auditioning for "Bad Boys 3."
The pop-cult references require knowledge of "MacGyver," "Die Hard" and "Apocalypse Now." Toward the end, "G-Force" starts making no sense at all, neither tonally nor narratively. It may not matter to the target audience, though the look on my son's face when it was over was pure Buster Keaton. He says he liked it well enough. Me, a little less.
MPAA rating: PG for some mild action and rude humor
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: In general release