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At least ‘G-Force’ is better than ‘Transformers 2’

Despite the fact that its heroes are (literally) guinea pigs turned superspies, “G-Force” winds up bearing the mark of its producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, more than you might think.

Despite the fact that its heroes are (literally) guinea pigs turned superspies, “G-Force” winds up bearing the mark of its producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, more than you might think. Like previous Bruckheimer extravaganzas — “Con Air” and the “National Treasure” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises — “G-Force” is short on wit, characterization and logic, but the car chases sure are breathtaking and just about everything blows up real good while the heroes run from the fireballs in slow motion.

After the botched infiltration of the home office of electronics magnate Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy), the FBI cuts off the funding of a secret team run by Ben (Zach Galifianakis), who has figured out a way to communicate with and train a team of rodents, including guinea pigs Darwin (voice of Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penélope Cruz) and Blaster (Tracy Morgan) as well as mole Speckles (Nicolas Cage).

Since the creatures can communicate, Agent Killian (Will Arnett) considers them a threat and orders their extermination. They manage to elude the feds and wind up in a pet store, where they meet flatulent guinea pig Hurley (Jon Favreau) and contentious hamster Bucky (Steve Buscemi). The clock is ticking, however: Whatever Saber’s diabolical plans are, our heroic vermin-ators have just 48 hours to stop them.

The screenplay by The Wibberleys cribs from “Snoopy Come Home,” “Finding Nemo” and “Bolt” as the beasts are separated from each other before reuniting for the big face-off with the bad guys. Sadly, apart from one “Die Hard” reference that caught me by surprise, there are few laughs to be found here, even for kids. None of the attempts at banter yield chuckles, and the characterizations — Blaster is reckless, Hurley’s a glutton, Juarez is a wise Latina — don’t amount to much either.

Visually, there’s a whole lot more going on. “G-Force” uses perspective and composition to give the 3-D effect a real kick — if you’re gonna see this, see it with the glasses — without resorting to old-school paddle-ball-toward-the-camera gimmickry. An extended car chase segment toward the end provides a welcome jolt of adrenaline, and the various guinea pig breaking-and-entering sequences feel like “Ocean’s Eleven” in a Habitrail. The character animation is spot on, with each little hair looking real; all of these beasties look true-to-life, and the face-animators (and the voice actors, of course) do much more than the writers to give these animals personalities.

Given how boundary-pushing Galifianakis’ comedy tends to be, it’s a little odd to watch him play straight man to a bunch of CG creations. I thought David Cross’ turn as a dullard robot in “Battle for Terra” would be the most flagrant example of an edgy comedian taking a paycheck role in 2009, but we have a new winner.

Not to give too much away — although Mandarin speakers will have an edge when it comes to seeing a big plot twist coming — but “G-Force” culminates with a giant robot attack, and that five minutes or so plays exceedingly more cogently and interestingly than the entirety of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” So for the many flaws and shortcomings of this kiddie adventure flick, it does at least manage to one-up the summer’s most dreadful (and, sadly, most successful) movie.

Follow Movie Critic Alonso Duralde at .