With good pacing, excellent voice talent, quality animation and direction, and a positive message, “The Bad Guys” is a family film that’s firing on all cylinders. This big screen adaptation of the best-selling Scholastic book series by Aaron Blabey is not only an exciting heist movie, but a story of redemption, friendship, and kindness.
A criminal crew of animal outlaws have made their mark as the world’s most wanted villains. After years of robberies and bad behavior, ringleader Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), safe cracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), master of disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), reactionary muscle Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), and cyber expert Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina) are prepared to pull off the most difficult job of their lives: taking a walk on the good side.
In order to avoid a long prison sentence and the wrath of the police chief (Alex Borstein), the gang of cons agree to be trained in the art of goodness by Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), with the help of the Governor (Zazie Beetz). They end up getting more than they bargained for as it becomes clear that nothing (and noone) is as it seems.
The messaging is timeless, and something that should resonate with both children and adults. People see the bad guys as monsters, so for decades they’ve been playing the cards they’ve been dealt. The story dives heavily into the idea that nobody should be dismissed as hopeless when they’ve never been given a fair chance, and that there’s good that can sometimes be found even in the worst places. Of course it’s a cliché to never judge a book by its cover, but the way the themes are presented here don’t feel like it.
The crew is so good at being bad, and it’s amusing to watch what happens when they try to change for the better, learning that it feels great to be decent and kind.There’s a good deal of humor and classic cartoon gags, but with an elevated DreamWorks Animation flair.
The script (adapted for the screen by Etan Cohen) is well written, with fully developed characters and surprise twists. The story is elevated by the top-notch voice performances, especially from Rockwell, Maron, and Borstein. The natural delivery and strong rapport between the actors is outstanding.
From the opening “Pulp Fiction” homage scene to the genuinely exciting heist and car chases, “The Bad Guys” benefits from a dash of sophistication. It’s funny, heartfelt, is not dumbed down for the kiddos, and is exceedingly well done.
By: Louisa Moore