Based on the best-selling children's books by Aaron Blabey, The Bad Guys has transitioned into the feature film realm with a hilarious and meaningful story that contains stellar voice casting and top-notch animation with a super-quick, cool pace. The criminal masterminded bad guys here are led by the suave pickpocket Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell) who leads his team of other animal friends, including Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), and Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos) that pays tribute in the best ways to iconic heist films. All ages are welcome in this movie as The Bad Guys satisfy everyone's funny bone along with some great messages about friendship, loyalty, and of course, change. Highly Recommended!
Directed by the lead animator of all the Kung-Fu Panda movies (Pierre Perifel) and written for the screen by Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder, Idiocracy), The Bad Guys takes its shape, which is molded by some fantastic movies that came before it. The film starts out with a wonderful and hilarious homage to Pulp Fiction that quickly turns into Ocean's 11 territory. Even the characters joke, "Never go full Clooney". It's easy to see elements of Edgar Wright at play here with some intense, fun editing magic along with some Fast and Furious type of absurd action and even a little bit of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in relation to a criminal changing to a good citizen. Of course, some of the references will go over the younger generation's head, but for those adults, these jokes will land perfectly.
Throughout the film, these ultra-cool characters riff on the films mentioned above that come with some comical action bits and character traits for each of its characters, including a giant Shark disguising himself as famous women from history, a short-tempered and flatulent Piranha, and a curmudgeon snake who dresses like Hunter S. Thompson and enjoys the taste of Guinea Pigs as much as he does for push-pops. The story focuses on this gang of criminals as they rob banks and jewels with the utmost ease and elegance, much like in Ocean's 11. Their cool vibe is infectious and even though they break the law and commit crimes, they seem like decent animals.
But as Mr. Wolf says, they were never given a chance to be good, so they all just leaned into their stereotypes over the years. After they are caught during a heist, the gang is given a chance at an experimental trial to have them learn and become good guys. Pretending to be good at first, Mr. Wolf plots to go back to his devious ways after the experiment, but when his tail wags for the first time, he realizes that there is more to life than stealing and crime. Through some twists, turns, and character reveals, The Bad Guys never lets up on the action and comedy, even if these twists can be seen coming a mile away.
The voice cast is simply stunning and energetic all the way through. Each of the criminals lends not only great comedic timing and delivery but also some emotional turns that goes above and beyond. Rockwell exudes coolness in Mr. Wolf while Maron's Snake is the best jerk on the planet and sounds a little like Danny Devito. Awkwafina is perfect as the computer hacker, while Ramos allows his singing and theatre background to hop in for a moment while his energy just blows everything out of the water. Zazie Beetz as Governor Fox is pitch-perfect where there is more behind her fur, as Richard Ayoade emits the flawless, elegant British scholar.
The animation mixes the 3D Dreamworks style with Japanese anime and 2D elements that make for a fast-paced and super-generating visual experience. From facial expressions to intense and zany car chases, The Bad Guys never fails to impress. The emotional tones are perfect for all ages and the comedy and action pieces are stitched together wonderfully. Let's all hope there are sequels on the way because The Bad Guys is just getting good. Highly Recommended!