Synopsis – Several reformed yet misunderstood criminal animals attempt to become good, with some disastrous results along the way.
My Take – When it comes to animated features, DreamWorks Animation are definitely behind some curious bunch of hits and misses, hence it is understandable to carry a kind of hesitance to invest time (and money) into their latest release which has been billed as a ‘caper’ starring a gang of furry and scaly villains.
Thankfully, with a mix of refreshingly old-fashioned tactics and a funny, energetic premise, the studio has successfully translated Australian author Aaron Blabey’s New York Times #1 bestselling graphic novel to the big screen.
Acting as an animated-riff on the Ocean’s series, the film, directed by Pierre Perifel and Etan Cohen (Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa), smartly uses all familiar tropes, like a lot of silly car chases, and tongue-in-cheek comedy to deliver an amusing message about not judging books by their covers, a hilarious element, considering its titular crew of criminals consists of all sorts of fast-talking, wise-cracking anthropomorphized characters forever stigmatized as the villains in kids’ picture books.
Sure, the script is quite predictable and the film in general contains some obvious similarities with Zootopia (2016), yet, it makes for a step forward for the studio, as the characters have a lot of charisma that together with a more than excellent animation and the underlying worthwhile message, makes it a treat for all ages. But most importantly, it never takes itself too seriously. For example, it instates a great white shark as a master of disguise! Hilarious!
Set in a world where anthropomorphic and human citizens coexist, the story follows a gang of criminal animals, consisting of the suave leader Mr. Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell), the safe-cracking expert Mr. Snake (voiced by Marc Maron), the loose-cannon Mr. Piranha (voiced by Anthony Ramos), the always-in-disguise Mr. Shark (voiced by Craig Robinson), and the tech-savvy Ms. Tarantula (voiced by Awkwafina), who are notorious for their brazen thefts and for eluding the authorities, especially Misty Luggins (voiced by Alex Borstein), the hot-tempered chief of police.
However, their run is cut short when they are caught red-handed at an event hosted by the red fox governor, Diane Foxington (voiced by Zazie Beetz), while attempting to steal a gold statue that was being awarded to Prof. Rupert Marmalade IV (voiced by Richard Ayoade), a philanthropic guinea pig.
But while being led away, in an attempt to dodge time in prison, Wolf convinces Marmalade to instead attempt to reform them, fully planning to take advantage of the pretense. Obviously the rehabilitative process does not quite go according to plan, especially since Wolf begins liking the good life.
At 100 minutes, this one is a very busy, over-stuffed caper, with twists, tangents, and incidental scenes that whizz by under the direction of French animator Pierre Perifel, who channels a 1970s vibe with a funky score composed and visual references to everything from many better heist films.
The plot takes shape around the gangs to pull off the ultimate job, but it’s smart enough to have fun with that idea, deconstructing it in a way that’ll make sense to parents and kids alike as it delivers a fast-moving, nothing-is-what-it-seems plot about finding a way to be good in the world.
Animation wise, here, director Perifel quaintly opts for a throwback, kinetic frenzy on the lines of Hanna-Barbera products, combining 2D and 3D techniques to create a new experience, resulting in a unique experience.
Sure, the film does suffer from a lack of emotional momentum, missing out on the sort of all-around character development we’ve come to expect from animated film nowadays, and one does get the feeling of having seen it all before. The central heist scene, in particular, that seems like a replica of a dozen others. If we are being honest, the film relies on some secondhand plot developments and double-crosses that you can see from far away.
Still, it’s all so light and breezy with the humor and likable characters that none of these issues will make a bit of difference. The film is still a fun and cheerful adventure with its heart in the right place. It has plenty of positive lessons to offer about the bonds of friendship and what a big difference it makes to be kind. Little ones will doubtless find the action sequences exciting and the animation captivating, and there is a good deal of humor to keep them thoroughly entertained.
Voice performances wise, Sam Rockwell brings in his best George Clooney turn and is slick throughout. Marc Maron is also very tickling with his sarcastic jokes. Awkwafina, Anthony Ramos and Craig Robinson seem to be having great fun with their character’s quips. In other roles, Zazie Beetz is delightfully foxy, Richard Ayoade‘s gentle monotone works well, while Alex Borstein and Lilly Singh fit into their roles with ease. On the whole, ‘The Bad Guys’ is an amusing animated comedy backed by a simple-yet-amusing premise.
Directed – Pierre Perifel
Rated – PG
Run Time – 100 minutes