By Rich Cline
This rollicking action romp has all of the chase scenes and car crashes you expect from a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, but a lot more (intentional) laughs thanks to a witty script and a cast of engaging rodents.
Ben and Marcie (Galifianakis and Garner) are horrified when a new FBI manager (Arnett) decides to shut down their project: training rodents and insects to be super spies. But these tiny agents refuse to go quietly, especially as they've just launched a mission to stop a kitchen appliance maker (Nighy) from taking over the world. After being shipped off to a pet store, three guinea pigs Darwin, Juarez and Blaster (voiced by Rockwell, Cruz and Morgan) and their tech-expert mole Speckles (Cage) plot their escape with pet guinea pig Hurley (Favreau).
The film takes off full-speed and never slows down, as these mini-experts outwit everything humans can throw at them, from children intent on torturing their pets to flustered FBI agents (Casseus and Conley) "driving angry" in their black SUVs. The solid effects work blends animation and live action seamlessly, even if things get rather silly with all of the walking-talking rodents. But the story is inventively told from their perspective, which lets us go along for a whizzy ride that's often quite exciting in 3D.
Yes, the story is extremely corny, and much of the humour is extremely cheesy.
But every now and then a zinger line of dialog flashes past, keeping us laughing and making sure that we're engaged with the characters. (For the kids, there are plenty of fart jokes too.) And while the filmmakers can't resist stirring in the exact same message as virtually every other children's movie (about finding your true self and building a family around you), at least they don't wallow in it, leaping into another bit of wackiness before we get annoyed.
More surprising, though, is the way the film touches on some of the same ideas and images as this summer's Transformers and Terminator sequels but makes them far more involving and entertaining. The secret is of course the sharply formed characters. And what's more endearing than a cuddly little furball?
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 24th July 2009
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Whamaphram Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 96
Cast & Crew
Director: Hoyt Yeatman Jr
Screenwriter: The Wibberleys
Starring: Sam Rockwell as Darwin the Guinea Pig (voice), Penélope Cruz as Juarez the Guinea Pig (voice), Tracy Morgan as Blaster the Guinea Pig (voice), Jon Favreau as Hurley the Guinea Pig (voice), Steve Buscemi as Bucky the Hamster (voice), Nicolas Cage as Speckles the Mole (voice), Edwin Louis as Mooch the Fly (voice), Jared Lavette as Jared the Skunk (voice), Micah Lavette as Micah the Fox (voice), Bill Nighy as Leonard Saber, Will Arnett as Kip Killian, Zach Galifianakis as Ben, Kelli Garner as Marcie, Niecy Nash as Rosalita, Loudon Wainwright III as Grandpa Goodman, Tyler Patrick Jones as Connor, Piper Mackenzie Harris as Penny, Chris Ellis as NSA Director, Gabriel Casseus as Carter, Justin Mentell as Terrell