• Nate Adams

'The Bad Guys' review: Kiddie heist flick boasts lots of energy and humor


Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation

 

A lovingly crafted and gorgeous animated feature from the folks at Dreamworks, “The Bad Guys,” based on the popular kids books by Aaron Blabey, roars with energy and has no issue presenting itself as “Oceans 11” for the littles. It’s a caper where a wolf, shark, snake, piranha and tarantula are the crew planning the take and though it might not strive for originality or spark with the same wit Pixar might have brought to the table, “The Bad Guys” has enough shenanigans and crackerjack attitude to make this an optimal choice in the post “Sonic The Hedgehog 2” world. Kids will love it and the parents won’t find themselves dozing off thanks to its riffs on the Quentin Tarantino filmography (the opening is clearly an homage to “Pulp Fiction” though no child in attendance will piece that together).


Outfitted with a stellar voice cast, Sam Rockwell lends his chops as the leader of the brigade, Mr. Wolf, a savvy, streetsmart hustler who rallies his troops for a series of newspaper headlining heists. But after the Bad Guys are caught (that’s literally the name given to them by the media) trying to steal a gold statue being awarded to a furry guinea pig, Professor Marmalade (voiced to absolute perfection by Richard Ayoade), Mr Wolf makes a plea deal to go straight and become the newly anointed “Good Guys.” Naturally, Professor Marmalade, trying to clinch his status as the most philanthropic individual since Mother Tereasa, commits to reforming the villainous entourage.


Running a breezy 100-minutes that rarely slows down to smell the roses, director Pierre Perifel (in his debut) keeps the action centered and focused with a keen emphasis on the character’s intrinsic personalities. Marc Maron gets mileage voicing Snake, the wise-guy number 2 who has a major appetite for guinea pigs; likewise Awkwafina’s tech savvy Tarantula, Craig Robinson’s hilarious Shark (whom at one point, to distract police officers, fakes a pregnancy) and Anthony Ramos’ gassy Piranha who gets to belt a fun tune in the middle of the picture. I mean, if one has Anthony Ramos you must contractually have him sing at some point, right?


The entire second act hinges on double-crosses and twists anyone with a sense of situational awareness will pick-up on, but “The Bad Guys” knows exactly the direction it’s steering and the punchy animation style (more similar to the storybook feel of “The Mitchell’s vs The Machines” as opposed to Dreamworks’ own “Madagascar”) complements the speedy narrative progression. Sit back and let your kids wallow in the hilarious finale that features a swarm of brainwashed guinea pigs overthrowing a freakin’ expressway and a group of likable baddies who find their own sense of purpose along the way.


Grade: B


THE BAD GUYS opens in theaters Friday, April 22nd.