12/31/2009

Blu-ray Review: Extract (2009)



Now Available to Own



Photo Gallery







Jerry Seinfeld once described coworkers as-- and I'm paraphrasing-- just a bunch of people who filled out the same job application that you did.



Of course, many of us have formed our greatest friendships through the workplace. But as Mike Judge brilliantly depicted in his insanely quotable, cult classic Office Space, most of the time we're basically stuck working alongside people whom we'd normally avoid in our daily lives.

The same can be said for neighbors as we're never quite sure exactly with whom we'll be sharing a fence, garbage collecting duty, or fake small talk when we sign on that dotted real estate line.



Overall, we're slaves to chance, luck, and proximity, which not only finds us surrounded by a random group at work or at home but has similarly lent a hand deciding the district we'll end up in for K-12 public school, which team we'll support in the playoffs, and whom we'll marry as well.

While Judge's brilliant Office Space is usually labeled a “workplace comedy,” he manages to touch on a few of those same issues of proximity and chance throughout. This is especially true whether it's in scenes wherein we worry that Ron Livingston's girlfriend Jennifer Aniston had dated his “pig of a boss” or marveling that Livingston would be friends with a hilarious, low-brow neighbor whose greatest ambition if he had a million dollars would be to do “two chicks at the same time.”



Following Space, Judge stumbled quite a bit with the disastrous Idiocracy, which was a much funnier idea on paper than it was onscreen in anything other than a short SNL style skit, which would've better suited the material, especially when factoring in that SNL alumni Maya Rudolph was one of its main stars.



However in 2009, Mike Jude returned with a movie that could be a distant relative of Office Space. Although it's nowhere near as laugh-out-loud hilarious as the one released ten years ago, it still culls comedy out of relatable situations involving impossible coworkers and overattentive neighbors.

Additionally, this time around, a more mature feel permeates throughout as though Extract was something he'd collaborated on with The Squid and the Whale's writer/director Noah Baumbach.



Yet the resulting and surprisingly overlooked comedy Extract is one that puts Baumbach's angst-filled oddities like Margot at the Wedding to shame. Far more importantly, it also stays true to exactly why we cheered for the nerds beating the hell out of a fax machine or looking up money laundering in the dictionary as Judge fills what could be fairly typical indie fodder with a comedic rogue's gallery of Office Space-like characters.



Re-teaming with his Juno co-star J.K. Simmons, Jason Bateman plays our frustrated lead. Despite the fact that the former bartender is financially successful running his own extract factory, driving a BMW, and living in a gorgeous home with his wife Kristen Wiig (SNL, Adventureland, Whip It, Ghost Town), he's personally dissatisfied by the dull sameness and demands that go along with being as Ben Folds dubbed, "male, middle class and white."



Hoping to unload his factory to General Mills to break up the daily monotony of trying to figure out exactly which “dinkus” employee his second-in-command Simmons is talking about or settling petty worker disputes, when we first encounter Bateman's Joel, sexual frustration seems to be his chief complaint.



With the unbelievable yet hilarious hurdle of his pushy, insistent neighbor Nathan (actor David Koechner essentially playing a grown up version of Dennis the Menace) flagging him down with chatter as soon as his car turns down the street, Joel is denied conjugal visits with his equally bored coupon designer wife whose eight o'clock sweatpants rule and Dancing With the Stars devotion has closed his bedroom door for months.

When Mila Kunis's beautiful young scheming con-woman hears about the possible settlement owed to one of Joel's Keystone Kops assembling line workers following a freak accident, she becomes not just Joel's newest employee but also one major flirtatious temptation.



Loyal and unwilling to cheat on the wife he loves but who has become the participant in what he worries is a “brother/sister” relationship, Joel finds himself agreeing to the most outrageous of plans when his best friend and old bartending buddy (an unrecognizable Ben Affleck) plays Dr. Feelgood by serving him an outrageous mix of prescription medication and alcohol.



Under the influence, Joel and Affleck's Dean decide to remove the guilt of Joel's lust for Kunis by hiring a young but extraordinarily dumb landscaper as a gigolo to seduce his wife beforehand so she'll be the one to break the marriage vows first.



It's a similar set-up to the one in the underrated dark UK comedy The Leading Man with Jon Bon Jovi. Yet in Extract Judge is always in comedic control of the taboo turn of events in what could've easily become a despicable plot sent down the Farrelly Brothers rabbit hole of scatological gags or a weak twenty-first century spin on '70s sex comedies like 10.



Playing it purely for the sake of laughter rooted in identifiable truths (raised to a more ridiculous level) and also withholding one key plot point that goes against our earlier expectations, Judge doesn't let any of his characters off the hook... yet somehow, he manages to keep us helplessly hooked at the exact same time.



Similar to Office Space, which was incidentally one of the first DVDs I ever purchased, the technically impressive Miramax Blu-ray transfer of Extract,
makes me think that it's the type of movie that will play much better at home. Just like Space, the humor will not age along with Judge's purposely exaggerated yet uniformly intelligent take on workplace and relationship comedy from neighbors to spouses.

Of course, it's safe to say that it won't equal the iconic pop culture level that Office Space has reached in our society. Although, when you watch Extract and think back on Office Space, you may realize just how accessible, universal, and situational his comedy was from the start. In other words, Judge's impact on work-centric TV shows including The Office and 30 Rock cannot be underestimated.



And actually, the success of Space necessitated him to dig a little deeper than he had before yet luckily for audiences, he didn't go as far out on a limb as he had with Idiocracy. Yes, Judge returned to his roots but he moved beyond work to explore the other levels of Seinfeld's law of irrational proximity.

In Extract, he addresses not just the power dynamic of marriage but our second careers as neighbors trying to avoid our second bosses like Nathan who have turned our homes into a decidedly different style of cubicle life ready for laughter. So don't use the "jump to conclusions mat" from Office Space; pick up Extract and make sure, like Office's Livingston, that you "get the memo" on Mike Judge.

Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

FTC Disclosure: To extract my thoughts about Extract, I received a review copy of Extract from Miramax Films and Buena Vista Home Entertainment, per standard critical practice.

12/25/2009

DVD Review: Say Anything... -- 20th Anniversary Edition (1989)

Now Available to Own



Photo Slideshow







In a scene that has transcended Say Anything... to rank as the most iconic pop culture image of Cameron Crowe's entire career so far, John Cusack's brokenhearted optimist Lloyd Dobler blasts a Peter Gabriel song overhead from a Boombox in his own version of the Romeo and Juliet balcony encounter while trying to win back the heart of Ione Skye's Diane Court.

Yet, the sheer vulnerability, humor, confidence, lack of cynicism, sensitive male passion and emotional nakedness of that very scene can likewise be viewed as the quickest visual way to summarize both the man behind the camera and the films of Cameron Crowe as well.


Just as you can recognize a Cameron Crowe film as soon as you hear the honest rush of free-flowing, unpretentious dialogue in the uninhibited exchanges of Say Anything..., Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Elizabethtown, Crowe's fingerprints as a former precocious teen journalist turned filmmaker are just as identifiable for the humanistic richness of warmhearted feelings he's able to deliver to viewers.

Cameron Crowe's sequences frequently walk the tightrope of pleasure and pain or humor and heartache and can move from one end of the spectrum to the other in the amount of time it takes a single tear to trickle down Kate Hudson's cheek before she brushes it away, forms a smile, and tries to joke away her disappointment in Almost Famous.

When referencing what led up to the first screenplay he'd written in which he would also direct more than twenty years ago, Crowe stated that wanted to make emotionally true movies "from deep down inside." And sure enough, that's something he's managed to achieve repeatedly, yet this goal takes its purest form in his straightforward, tender and refreshingly simplistic directorial debut which has been re-released last month from 20th Century Fox for its twentieth anniversary.


Although Crowe's films often share a nostalgia for the same blend in the works of his idols such as Billy Wilder and are legendary for their use of a tremendous soundtrack (as some critics have claimed to an extreme extent in Vanilla Sky), the most enviable repetition in his works is that they all center on extraordinarily three-dimensional ensemble casts of characters populated by individuals you feel as thought you either know or could theoretically meet walking down the street.

There's nothing false about the personality of a Crowe character, even when they're yelling "show me the money" in desperation to hang onto a job that they felt was the entire basis of who they were as a human being. And while he's particularly gifted at writing the type of female roles he calls "golden girls," the tough masculine posture of male characters who are just as vulnerable (if not more so) than the female characters are his unmistakable trademark.

Honest, passionate, and driven-- even if it is to something as improbable as a kickboxing career or simply loving Diane Court in Say Anything...-- Crowe's work is filled with people who give their heart to a consumerist society that as evidenced in Anything sometimes gives them a pen in return. However and much to our delight, Crowe's creations continue to stay optimistic whether they're dreaming of moving to Spain with Penny Lane or holding that Boombox over their heads one more time.


Crowe is also an auteur who has always followed that old adage to "write what you know," whether it's in his mostly autobiographical masterwork of Famous, or Elizabethtown which was inspired by his father. However, the same filmmaker who once said that "mannerisms inform character," has also created a few of contemporary cinema's greatest characters simply by encountering them.

When a man wiped his face on a plane, it became Jerry Maguire, and the most literal example of meeting the people who ended up on the page is found in this film when a new neighbor showed up at his door, wiped his hand on the side of his pants before shaking Crowe's formally, and introduced himself as Lowell, a wannabe kickboxer passionate about "the sport of the future."

Despite the fact that he admitted to James L. Brooks that Lowell annoyed him a great deal with frequent visits, the young man had an inspirational effect on the similarly young Crowe. And once Brooks told him to "write that guy," something clicked and he managed to pull from both Lowell the kickboxer and the idea of a man voluntarily going on a hopeless journey towards possible heartache to pursue the heart of the school's golden girl.


While the character of Lloyd Dobler feels like a close relative of other Crowe characters and also seems to recall Crowe as well, watching it again this time, you get the sense that Crowe drew an awful lot from his own circumstances essentially missing out on traditional teen activities and having no sense of regular social interactions in high school when he penned what is still the best role that actress Ione Skye has ever been given.

A movie that's been written about and viewed so many times that to dissect it now would be superfluous, Anything is a marvel on a number of levels when you realize just how fully realized every character in the film is from John Mahoney's pitch-perfect turn as Diane's dad who takes the smallest of moments like trying to flirt with a woman at a furniture shop before his credit card is declined to the way that Joan Cusack knows how to bring her brother to another level playing his sister.


Yet the most striking aspect of Anything is how fresh it still manages to feel so many years later. While parents and children, the idea that opposites attract, teen love, and the outsider feel of being the brain have never gone away, Say Anything... still resonates more than other '89 works because it's so emotionally true, so rooted in the very personality of its creator in a way that we just don't see in cinema much anymore.

The characters and the various extras on this new DVD edition can of course "say anything" given the fact that all exist in a society of free speech. Still it's important to remember that what they say wouldn't mean anything without the real heart behind it, the drive to reach "deep down inside," the willingness "to get hurt," and put everything on the line with a song on a Boombox.

All of these ingredients ensure that the movies of Crowe will never age since there's no expiration date for honesty, real people, and the attempt to connect with another human being... whether it's the smart girl in school, your neighbor the kickboxer, or the audience that has been reveling in Crowe's work for more than twenty years.


Cameron Crowe



Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

FTC Disclosure: I gave this film my heart nearly two decades ago and never received a pen in return. While 20th Century Fox did provide me with this DVD anniversary edition to review as I'd previously owned it myself on this outdated medium called VHS, it had no bearing on my willingness to Say Anything... in my review about Cameron Crowe's directorial debut.

Movie Review: Nine (2009)





Photo Slideshow



Federico Fellini's Film that Fostered Nine



The Soundtrack

Female Ensemble - Nine (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)



The Tony Award Winning Productions





"You kill your film when you talk about it," Daniel Day-Lewis purrs in his surprisingly sexy Italian accent as soon as Rob Marshall's movie begins as he eases into the role of Guido Contini with complete conviction.

Throughout Nine, Contini is perpetually driven both wild by lascivious lust and irritably insane by director's block since the filmmaker has neither written a single page of his script nor figured out how to precisely "write" with his camera for his upcoming Italia.



As Conini, Day-Lewis fittingly channels Fellini and
Marcello Mastroianni who had originated the inspiration for Day-Lewis' role in Fellini's 8 1/2 before it became a Tony award-winning musical in both '82 and '03. Yet more intriguingly, Day-Lewis also taps directly into the spirit of Bob Fosse who made a Felliniesque largely autobiographical portrait of working and playing himself to death in All That Jazz.



Aside from announcing itself as quite Felliniesque-- for the portion of the audience who knows the movie's origins-- the opening of Nine and its warning regarding the delicate nature of filmmaking as attempting to breathe life into the "death" of the work on celluloid makes you subtly acknowledge those who have laid down their lives in pursuit of this particular art form.



The blend of cinema, truth, dreams, and illusions-- all one in the same to Fellini-- permeates throughout Rob Marshall's third feature, which was adapted by two men who knew the terrain very well. The men who transferred the movie from the musical to movie form on the page consisted of both Michael Tolkin who wrote the Hollywood insider dark comedy The Player along with co-writer Anthony Minghella whose work on Nine was sadly the last screenplay that The English Patient, Cold Mountain, and The Talented Mr. Ripley filmmaker completed before his early death.



Figuratively hiding behind words about the death of cinema and literally as his next picture hasn't even been brought to life yet, since Guido Contini routinely escapes into fantasies starring the women who've made up his past, present and future, he decides to escape for real, ditching his Roman press conference in his Fiat Alfa Spyder as the movie opens.

Yet, no matter how far and how fast he goes, the Fiat can't handle all of Guido's baggage. Thus, to form the rather loose plot, the baggage begins to spill out across the screen when the filmmaker's past and crew catches up with him as professional and personal crises coincide,
ten days before the cameras are scheduled to begin rolling on nothing but his muse, played by Nicole Kidman in a role written for her by Minghella.



Obviously it's difficult to adapt Fellini's 8 1/2 source material on even the most basic structural level as the Italian anti-structure masterpiece is the film director's version of Citizen Kane. Unfortunately, it's also become obvious that Fellini's wild and carnivalesque landscape of virgins, whores, mothers, wives, and lovers only works when Federico Fellini is the one making a Federico Fellini film.

While Day-Lewis thrilled me more for his embodiment of the character than in his capable chops as a singer and dancer--impressively contorting his tall and thin frame in between railings and stair cases-- I longed for a rewrite of Guido Contini as a "player" rather than a Tolkin Player.



Essentially, I imagined what would've happened to the film if Guido Contini had been formulated (whether by Day-Lewis or another actor) with the energy of John Cusack, charm of Robert Downey Jr., and/or suave elegance of Cary Grant to try and give the over-the-hill playboy a new twist. Of course, being pretentious is the key to being Guido Contini but we should get the sense that he has something more to offer than his accent and movies to keep us as captivated as the women.



Unlike the cheery yet embarrassingly awful Mamma Mia!, Rob Marshall's film which at least takes the director back in the right direction of the movie musical after the picturesque yet plodding Memoirs of a Geisha, is nonetheless one very icy song and dance picture.

Far more troublesome as a film, however is the fact that it's as emotionally vacant as Geisha since the thinly drawn one-dimensional women of Nine are Geisha like in their beauty but harder to empathize with or understand than Guido Contini's nonexistent screenplay especially when they're throwing themselves at the exhausted Contini.



Fortunately, the women all have their moments to shine including Nicole Kidman's La Dolce Vita backdrop to give the film's biggest speech, Kate Hudson's mod "Cinema Italiano" number with more words than a screwball comedy in a sequence sure to make you recall her mother Goldie Hawn during her Laugh In days, and Penelope Cruz's over-sexed rope dance that steams up the celluloid like it was inside the nitrate canisters ready to ignite in Inglourious Basterds.



But ultimately Nine's standout performance is delivered by La Vie en Rose, Public Enemies and Love Me if You Dare star Marion Cotillard as Guido's long-suffering wife. However, in the film's shortest screen role with the greatest impact, Black Eyed Peas performer Fergie tackles the iconic prostitute on the beach from the original Fellini film.

And in stark contrast to 8 1/2's rather ridiculous, gaudy, and thinly veiled misogynistic "grotesque" characterization, Fergie fully embodies the sexuality of Saraghina who was the first woman to arouse the young, curious Guido and in Nine, she manages to seduce with Guidoesque impact as Fergie brings the house down with her rendition of the movie's best number "Be Italian."

Incidentally this sequence is so good that you don't even need to take my word for it as Fergie's big number and its corresponding title has become the most referenced tagline on the collection of posters made by The Weinstein Company's publicity department.



Still, overall it's the absolute opposite of a feel-good musical complete with
an adulterous cad main character for whom we just can't root even if simply with the same repulsed yet fascinated revenge driven mode adopted by Johnny Depp's barber in Sweeney Todd nor the "Cell Block Tango" murderesses of Chicago since at least their characters were all fully fleshed out, even if they bared just as much flesh as the ladies of Nine.

While musicals are undoubtedly one of my biggest passions and I'm personally rooting for a major genre return in any variety including an Across the Universe rock opera, Walk the Line musical biopic, operas turned into stage musicals made for film like Rent or full-blown works on the scale of Dreamgirls, sadly Nine misses the mark of an effective musical because it fails to generate our empathy.



Still, overall Nine is a finely crafted but largely uneven venture that is nonetheless sure to be great Oscar bait because of its sheer star power and technical precision alone.

As dazzling as a Broadway show and with terrific achievements in the realm of editing and cinematography, at times, Nine reminded me of a smaller scale retread of the chaotic showstopping numbers in Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge blended with the same lingerie shimmy messy sex appeal of Marshall's vastly superior Oscar winner, Chicago.



Unfortunately, more often than not it simply reaffirmed the thesis uttered by Kate Hudson's American journalist that "style is content." Or in the case of Nine, we gather that discussion has definitely killed Marshall's movie just as Guido Contini warned at the beginning since precious few moments come to life, despite his wondrously sexy Italian accent that tries to turn lies into gold... just not legitimately Oscar gold.

Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

FTC Disclosure: As is standard critical practice, I saw Nine at a free press screening of the film held by a local PR company on behalf of The Weinstein Company. Although we were encouraged by Fergie to "Be Italian," I already met this prerequisite before I attended the screening and seeing the movie in advance in no way impacted my response to the work overall.

12/22/2009

TV on DVD: Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie -- Extended Edition (2009)


Now Available on DVD




Photo Slideshow







Following a triumphant return to the airwaves for the show's third season filmed entirely in high definition, in the late summer of '09, Walt Disney Channel's Emmy award-winning original series Wizards of Waverly Place, became one of the biggest TV chart toppers for the network with its first feature length original movie.

Created by former Hannah Montana consulting producer and season one scribe Todd J. Greenwald in 2007, Wizards of Waverly Place initially broke new ground as the first series in the history of the network to center on a family of mixed ethnicity. Although it accurately reflects our society, Disney's Waverly aired in stark contrast to the channel's other big hits including the country western hoedowns of Hannah Montana or the songs belted out by the purity ring wearing Jonas Brothers.


Yet, on the surface and especially considering that this DVD bows onto shelves just one week after the latest installment of J.K. Rowling's phenomenally successful Harry Potter franchise, it's easy to assume that the series' five fictitious members that comprise the half Italian-American and half Mexican-American Russo family are merely a House of Mouse transfer of fresh faced High School Musical trilogy style tweens to a Disneyfied version of Potter's own Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


However, to basically write off the unique delights of Waverly as just a Potter send-up (which in itself was a hodgepodge of dozens of other works) would be to sell this refreshingly energetic, whimsical, and downright fun series premise short. While I can't actually judge the series since I have yet to see it, I was really charmed by the feature-length effort for the '09 work that scored so many viewers that it ranked in second place after High School Musical 2 as the most watched Disney Channel Original Movie ever made.

Joyful instead of largely melancholic, unlike the rather rich, extensive mythology that's wrapped up in Rowling's superior epic, Waverly is yet another in a long line of contemporary female-centric cable shows (like Nickelodeon's iCarly) that makes me jealous that I didn't have the same programming available to me when I was a tween.

At its core, Waverly is reminiscent in spirit to Disney's family friendly magic infused classics whether it's live action courtesy of Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the Witch Mountain series, Freaky Friday or in ways that hearken back to the studio's decades of animation.


In creating the tween friendly concoction, it's fun to imagine Disney borrowing a bit of Tinker Bell's enchanting pixie dust along with the tiny wands the Sleeping Beauty fairies used to prepare gifts for Aurora to make their own version of not just Potter but a gentler Charmed, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Sabrina: The Teenage Witch as well as vintage Roald Dahl classics like Matilda and others.


Essentially a family sitcom with a supernatural twist, the show focuses on the relatable sibling rivalry of three New York kids. Arguably the most popular character is the Disney Radio favorite Selena Gomez, whom I first encountered in the DVD of another Disney Channel Original Movie release of the surprisingly clever Princess Protection Program.

While in real life, Gomez is a budding pop star, in Waverly, she's the Russo household's coolest and most rebellious Generation Y version of Jan Brady as the conflicted middle child who has a knack for finding loopholes, getting in trouble, and letting her imagination be her guide. Obviously and much like her younger brother Max (Jake T. Austin), Gomez's Alex resents the amount of attention her responsible, “golden boy” older brother Justin (David Henrie) receives from her parents.


However, instead of moping, she quickly discovers that she's able to get away with it a bit more since her parents don't usually catch onto her latest shenanigan until after it goes haywire. And this is precisely what occurs in opening sequence of the Waverly Movie when Alex learns that without the proper magic wand, forbidden spells aren't quite as "super user friendly" as she'd thought when Justin ends up stepping in to save Alex and her best friend from a subway crash.

As a unique form of punishment, Alex's parents (David DeLuise and Maria Canals Berrera) decide to bring the three children along on their romantic Caribbean vacation, which Alex compares to "a never ending photo shoot," when her mom enforces photographed family togetherness to such an extent that she becomes the Russo's own version of the paparazzi.

Although Alex is more vocal in her boredom, Justin is also frustrated by his parents' need to reenact every stage of their romance to squeamish effect when all he wants to do is to track down the most important wizard artifact of all time in the form of the elusive Stone of Dreams.


Yet when another argument with her mother sends sixteen year old Alex over the edge, another forbidden spell goes awry as she accidentally interferes with the history of her family, with the childish plea turned reality when she angrily wishes her parents had never met.


Within an instant, Alex's mom mistakes her for the concierge and she's stunned to discover her father in bachelor mode, flirting with any female who walks by as Alex, Justin and Max realize they have to work together, find the Stone of Dreams and prevent their parents from falling for other people on a romantic island to set things right again.

While Max is left to solely reenact an unlikely version of A Christmas Carol meets The Parent Trap for his parents who in reality have never split up, the older siblings take off on a daring adventure involving quicksand, peril, and an ultimate wizard showdown that balances out the natural comedy of the set-up with the magical adventure quite nicely.


Admittedly as predictable at times as a long episode of Bewitched, it's also utterly delightful, beautifully photographed, and filled with a wholesome message that avoids the temptation to preach like the last few minutes of Full House or Leave it to Beaver.


Yet more than that, Wizards of Waverly Place is also refreshingly entertaining for both children and parents given the way that the plot lets the age roles reverse and makes sure that every cast member gets at least one sequence in which to shine.

Far more impressive than Disney's big-budget, studio venture G-Force which was released on the exact same date, Wizards of Waverly Place is further proof that the magic of Disney is growing stronger than ever on the small screen with their increasingly irresistible original movies that remind me of the joy I experienced watching the '80s and '90s "Wonderful World of Disney" ABC releases hosted by Michael Eisner.

Text ©2009, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited.

FTC Disclosure: Per standard critical practice, I received a review copy of this title for my article, spell book, wand and a trip to the Caribbean not included.

12/21/2009

Blu-ray Review: G-Force (2009)


Now Available to Own



Photo Slideshow







As Jerry Bruckheimer explains,
"movies about secret agents have been on screen long before James Bond, and movies in which animals speak and have personalities have also been with us for quite some time. What we've never seen, however, is a movie about secret agents who also happen to be animals-- what's more in a combination of live action, animation and Digital 3D."

Well, I tell you, I'm glad that at least somebody is excited by the prospect of as the Walt Disney Pictures release describes a film and bonus features made for audiences "that will satisfy their quest to join the rodent spy world."

Honestly, after watching G-Force, not only am I going to do everything in my power to avoid the rodent spy world but I'd say it's about time to put a moratorium on strange genre hybrids involving rodents.


Admittedly, it was odd to see a rat become a chef in a kitchen in another studio offering but in Pixar's hands, Ratatouille worked the same way that the unlikely prospect of a movie about a Barbra Streisand musical obsessed trash compactor who lives alone in the future worked in Wall-E.

Yet, the one problem that G-Force-- like several other Bruckheimer productions face-- is the fact that just because you can throw everything together, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should. As evidenced in this slam-bang, hyper, unlikable mess, sometimes the results are worse than a disastrous dish cooked up in a kitchen by a rodent.


Despite this, the idea of a secret agent who is also technically a rat works on the page, especially because of the potential for punchlines that just because they're a rat, it doesn't mean they will rat along with the fact that they could conceivably maneuver in and out of buildings since most individuals will run in the other direction when they spot one. Still, to up the cuteness factor since it's Disney after all, the rodents of choice for this feature are not rats but instead a group of guinea pigs not unlike the kind kids bring home as class pets.

Fortunately, the class pet incident that sparked the imagination of the Oscar winning visual effects wizard turned filmmaker Hoyt H. Yeatman, Jr. evolved from the mind of his son and not from the real-life incident that happened to this critic wherein I brought home the class pet pig and it tragically died.


Needless to say, it's to its advantage that Bruckheimer's frequent collaborating screenwriters-- The Wibberleys-- avoid my Old Yeller situation completely for their plot. Instead, the contributors to Bad Boys 2, the National Treasure franchise, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and I-Spy basically use Bruckheimer's grown-up action movies The Rock and Con Air as the basis for a film that never seems sure just exactly whom the target audience is supposed to be.


Throughout, it moves uneasily from a complex spy plot introduction to double entendre filled humor in a way that fails to come together for audiences of all ages. Kindergarten to early grade school children will find themselves lost by the plot despite relating to the idea that their class pet could be the rodent version of James Bond. Moreover, they'll be unable to adapt to the mean-spirited humor involving kids who either torture or mistreat pets like the neighbor does to Woody and Buzz in Toy Story. At the same time, audience members closer to the PG-13 rating will be less than interested in watching a talking animal spy movie when they can watch a live action spy movie instead.

Using the basic unlikely heroes on a mission paradigm of Bruckheimer's earlier films and actually recycling taglines from movies of the past, the screenplay is all over the map as it blends their work on Charlie's Angels with an endless amount of other movies to try to cover as many bases as possible in Bruckheimer's more plus more plus more equals "even more" Hollywood Megabucks formula.


Unfortunately, it fails despite a terrific supporting cast of both live action and voice actors who truly earn their salaries including Oscar winners Penelope Cruz (Volver, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Nicolas Cage (using an odd Mel Blanc inspired voice for his sixth collaboration with Bruckheimer), along with audience favorites like Jon Favreau, Sam Rockwell (Moon), Tracey Morgan (TV's 30 Rock), Will Arnett (TV's Arrested Development), Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Steve Buscemi (Con Air) and Hangover plus Up in the Air star Zack Galifianakis.


Originally presented in 3D and digital projection, employing Sony technology in its theatrical premiere as a summer popcorn movie, the film arrives as part of Walt Disney's popular combo packs including the film in Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy solely in a purely 2D format. While it's nice to have the same movie three times especially if you like it, when the film had been originally made for 3D it's slightly disappointing for it not to arrive in the same format. Although Pixar's Up hit discs in 2D, it didn't matter because it had so much going for it. Sadly, the same cannot be said for G-Force as one assumes that perhaps the distraction of the visuals by first time director and veteran effects man Yeatman may have made this film a bit easier to bear.

However, as it's presented and despite the superlative Disney Blu-ray technology which has served them well in numerous extraordinary Combo Packs of vastly superior efforts such as Up, Monster's Inc., Pinocchio, and Snow White here in 2009, the rapid chaos of the second long cuts makes The Bourne Ultimatum look like a decaffeinated cup of your grandmother's favorite tea by comparison to G-Force. Bruckheimer's hybrid whips by faster, louder, and more urgently than one of his live action movies on fast-forward or a hot new video game, making one think that it should come with a warning that dizziness and/or headaches could occur.


In a year of wonderful family releases and so many from the Walt Disney Company, G-Force is one of the lowest points as I can't even recommend it as a worthwhile rental other than to say that the beautiful shiny box is the most memorable and eye-catching thing about it. However, despite the fact that this Disney disc is a resounding thud, the company will undoubtedly and as always bounce right back with another great effort... yet hopefully it will be one that doesn't need to resort to Bruckheimer's haphazard love of wild hybrids that make you want to call pest control instead of bring these particular pets home for the holidays.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard critical practice, I received a review copy of this film to review and as evidenced, receipt of the title had no impact whatsoever on my article.