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Two Comedies from Disney

G-Force (March 4/10)

Jerry Bruckheimer's first kid-oriented endeavor since 2003's Kangaroo Jack, G-Force follows a team of genetically-engineered rodents (Sam Rockwell's Darwin, Tracy Morgan's Blaster, Penelope Cruz's Juarez, and Nicholas Cage's Speckles) as they attempt to prevent an evil billionaire (Bill Nighy's Leonard Saber) from taking over the world - with their efforts temporarily put on hold after the government shuts them down and they're forced to temporarily hide out within a generic pet store (where they meet a grumpy hamster and an easy-going guinea pig, voiced by, respectively, Steve Buscemi and Jon Favreau). It's clear right from the get-go that G-Force has been designed to appeal primarily to small children, as the film boasts a relentlessly slick sensibility that's reflected in virtually all of its attributes - with the incoherent action sequences and ongoing reliance on irritating pop songs effectively lending the proceedings a vibe of pervasive superficiality that grows more and more difficult to stomach as time progresses. The mindless atmosphere is perpetuated by the blistering pace and emphasis on juvenile hijinks, and it's also worth noting that virtually none of the film's actors are able to transform their sketchily-conceived characters into wholeheartedly compelling figures (Buscemi's hilarious turn as the sneaky Bucky is a rare exception to this). And then there's the overblown, Transformers-like finale, which, in its exhausting freneticism, ensures that G-Force ends on as anti-climactic a note as one could envision - thus cementing the movie's place as an utterly worthless (and frequently unwatchable) piece of work.

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Old Dogs (March 4/10)

Clearly patterned after the 2007 sleeper Wild Hogs, Old Dogs follows lifelong pals Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams) as they attempt to cope with the unexpected arrival of Dan's two small children (Conner Rayburn's Zach and Ella Bleu Travolta's Emily) just as they're about to close a lucrative business deal. There's little doubt that Old Dogs, though suffused with an affable, easy-going vibe, strikes all the wrong notes virtually from the word go, as screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman place an all-too-consistent emphasis on comedic set-pieces that simply aren't funny (ie Dan is trapped within the confines of a spray-tan machine, Charlie swallows the wrong pills and grins uncontrollably through a bereavement ceremony, etc). It's consequently not surprising to note that one's efforts at working up any enthusiasm for the central characters' ongoing exploits fall entirely flat, with the unreasonably cartoonish atmosphere perpetuated by an almost uniformly over-the-top array of performances (ie these aren't people; they're caricatures). Old Dogs' astonishing lack of laughs remains its biggest deficiency, however, and there's little doubt that the desperation that's been hard-wired into the proceedings is reflected in the progressively broad nature of the movie's jokes and gags. It's also worth noting that the presence of several familiar faces within cameo roles - Bernie Mac, Luis Guzman, and Justin Long, among others - only exacerbates the film's overstuffed, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink modus operandi, with the end result a hopelessly inept piece of work that's sure to turn off even ardent fans of the two stars.

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About the DVDs: G-Force and Old Dogs arrive on DVD accompanied by Blu-ray copies, which are - as expectedly - virtually flawless in their presentation. Both movies boast a number of supplemental materials.
© David Nusair