The Bad Guys

With Police Chief Misty Luggins (voice of Alex Borstein) vowing to catch them after they elude her force in a high speed chase, their leader, pickpocket Mr. Wolf (voice of Sam Rockwell), comes up with his most outrageous plan to date, stealing the prized Golden Dolphin at Governor Diane Foxington’s (voice of Zazie Beetz) Good Samaritan award dinner.  But when Mr. Wolf’s tail betrays them, award recipient Professor Marmalade (voice of Richard Ayoade) bets the Governor he can make good guys out of “The Bad Guys.”

Laura's Review: B

This animated version of an Ocean’s 11 like crew’s failed heist has more twists and turns than many feature films.  With an adaptation of the Scholastic book series by author Aaron Blabey and "Tropic Thunder's" Etan Cohen, “Kung Fu Panda" animator Pierre Perifel makes his directorial debut almost more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  Fans of the heist genre should spot more than a few film references (“Point Break” and “Mission Impossible” to name another two).

The gang is introduced as they both flee from the cops and celebrate the birthday of their safecracker Mr. Snake (voice of Marc Maron), whose hat and Hawaiian shirt recall “Fear and Loathing’s” Hunter Thompson.  He’s not thrilled with his cake, stating a preference for guinea pigs and evincing a love for ice pops, always heading off master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (voice of Craig Robinson) for the last of the latter.  The smallest Bad Guys include their hair-trigger ‘muscle,’ Mr. Piranha (voice of Anthony Ramos) and expert hacker Ms. Tarantula aka Webs (voice of Awkwafina) who can type on three keyboards at once, a talent that comes in handy as Wolf and Snake are suspended over the Golden Dolphin with a curtain about to rise.

Mr. Wolf, a slick charmer, has recently surprised himself when his tail begins to wag after coming to the assistance of an old woman, an outward manifestation of feeling good about being good, and it is this that trips him up at the worst possible time.  Snake and the others believe him when he claims they can use the Professor’s ‘experiment’ to engineer their escape but, at first anyway, every one of the guinea pig’s efforts fails.  Then Wolf finds himself actually wanting to rescue that kitten from a tree, and when he fails to hit the switch that will enable their getaway during the gala celebrating their goodness, Snake goes rogue and the remainder find themselves a most surprising ally and even more surprising adversary.

The writing is sharp and sight gags numerous (check out the pajama onesies).  The vocal cast adds unique flourishes to their characters, only Beetz a bit generic, and the CGI often resembles hand drawn,   Original music by Daniel Pemberton ("Birds of Prey," "Being the Ricardos") provides a kitschy genre kick with a 60’s inflection.  If there is a problem with the film, it is that it is too much of a good thing, a series of capers twisting this way and that going on for one beat too many with a subplot involving a character revealed to be living a double life which drags the pacing down.  It springs back, thankfully, and considering this has been adapted from a series of books, if it is intended as a franchise starter, it is a welcome one.

Robin's Review: B+

Mr. Wolf, Mr. Snake, Ms, Tarantula, Mr. Piranha and Mr. Shark are notorious criminals that strike fear in the city’s inhabitants just by showing up. But, when they are caught and put in jail, Mayor Diane Foxington makes them an offer – follow the straight and narrow path, be good and get paroled. The crafty gang, though, see this as their chance to pull off the biggest heist ever as “The Bad Guys.”

As the film begins, we are introduced to the above criminals with the “Mr.” and “Ms.” appellations and I knew that director Pierre Perifel and his team did their homework and watched Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs (1992)” more than once (and the “Ocean’s” films, both original (1960) and the many, more modern remakes/sequels that followed it.) Granted, the bad guys in “The Bad Guys” are a bit less ruthless than Quentin’s color-coded criminals.

The Bad Guys are, indeed, bad and, even when caught and incarcerated, are always looking for the easy way out and to make a buck – well, lots and lots of bucks. Mayor Diane outfoxes (yes, pun intended) the fabulous five and they make a deal to be the Good Guys, while their real, secret plan is put under way.

If you want more details about said heist, see the movie. What you will get is delightfully funny caper movie with a first-rate band of bad guys. Each has his/her “special set of skills” with Sam Rockwell as the charming brains of the gang, the Big Bad Wolf; Awkwafina as “web” expert Tarantula; Shark (Craig Robinson), the master of disguise; Mark Maron is Snake, the safe cracker; and Piranha (Anthony Ramos) is the mad muscle of the gang (and, a nervous farter). Their nemesis is the smart and savvy Mayor Foxington (Zazie Betz) and her partner in (stopping) crime, genius Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade).

The vocal cast is excellent and all are fully developed and funny characters, but it is the many clever twists and turns that add to fun and entertainment. There is a shift in gears toward the end that felt like an extra that was not needed. That is small criticism when compared to the smile I had on my face for the whole 100 minute run time.

Universal releases the Dreamworks animation "The Bad Guys" in theaters on 4/22/22.