Movie Review | ‘The Bad Guys’ a slick animated adventure with heart – Eureka Times-Standard

Movie Review | ‘The Bad Guys’ a slick animated adventure with heart – Eureka Times-Standard

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Sometimes it’s good to be bad.
As long as, at the end of the day, you’re being pretty good.
That, more or less, is the message of “The Bad Guys,” a very slick and pretty fun offering from DreamWorks animation based on Aaron Blabey’s popular book series of the same name.
The Bad Guys are a crew of anthropomorphic animals, each of whom brings his or her own skillset to the enterprise of stealing this, that and the other in their city.
We first are introduced to their leader, handsome pickpocket Mr. Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell), enjoying a meal at a coffee shop with his pal and colleague Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), who isn’t at all interested in celebrating his birthday — for reasons that will become apparent deeper into the movie.
The buddies finish up their lunch and proceed to rob a nearby bank with the rest of their gang: easy-going master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson, “Hot Tub Time Machine”), short-fused tough guy Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos, “In the Heights”) and expert hacker Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”).
“Go bad …” Mr. Wolf says as he drives them away from the scene of the crime in his souped-up car.
“… or go home,” Mr. Snake says, completing the accompanying offer of a fist bump from Mr. Wolf.
Back at their super-secret, loot-filled hideout, Mr. Wolf is eager to watch a news report covering their latest heist. However, he quickly becomes upset by a new city official, Governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), saying she feels sorry for The Bad Guys, referring to them as “second-rate has-beens.”
Mr. Wolf crafts a plan for a high-profile heist at a big public event attended by Foxington and other important types. There — and disguised as the sophisticated (and excellently named) Oliver Poodleton — he chats her up, and we see these furry mammals have a little chemistry.
Also in attendance is Chief of Police (Alex Borstein, “Family Guy”), who’s long been obsessed with seeing The Bad Guys pay for their crimes. When their plan goes awry, she is close to getting her wish, but instead of being sent to prison, The Bad Guys strike a deal. Instead, they will work with the night’s honoree, kind-hearted guinea pig Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade, “Paddington 2”), who will teach them how to be (gasp!) good guys.
Will they be able to make the big change? Do they really even want to? And might a REAL villain emerge before the adventure is all said and done? (Well, obviously, the answer to the final question is yes, but we’ll say no more.)
Pierre Perifel, an animator on the “Kung Fu Panda” movies, makes his feature-directing debut with “The Bad Guys,” working from a screenplay by Etan Cohen (“Tropic Thunder,” Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”). At more than a kid-friendly 90 minutes, their adventure could have been a little tighter, but there is a lot of amusement here for the little ones — regardless of whether they know the books.
Plus, there are lessons to be found, especially when it comes to the testing of the bond between Mr. Wolf and Mr. Snake.
Thankfully, “The Bad Guys” also traffics in some gags only adults will get, including a silly-clever throw-away joke involving Ms. Tarantula’s computer work.
Also, “The Bad Guys” gets kudos for its voice casting. Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) is cool and smooth as Mr. Wolf, while podcast host and comic Maron crushes it as the curmudgeonly and abrasive Mr. Snake. And then there’s Maron’s “Joker” castmate Beetz (“Atlanta”), who helps Foxington come across as appropriately confident and capable.
According to the movie’s production notes, “The Bad Guys” isn’t a straight adaptation of the first graphic novel but instead folds in elements from the first four of Aussie Blabey’s best-selling 22-book series.
While this falls short of an animated classic, we certainly wouldn’t mind Hollywood looting Blabey’s treasure chest to craft another adventure of these rather good Bad Guys.
“The Bad Guys” is rated PG for action and rude humor. Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
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