Adventure Animation

Review: ‘The Bad Guys’ is a Stylishly Animated Caper that will Steal the Hearts of Audiences of All Ages

April 21, 2022Ben MK

Anthropomorphic animals with attitude have been something of a mainstay since the very early days of children's cartoons, whether it's the O.G. himself, Mickey Mouse, or more recent fan favorites like Kung Fu Panda and the cast of Zootopia. With the action-packed, animated heist comedy The Bad Guys, however, director Pierre Perifel is bringing some serious Ocean's Eleven style and swagger to the familiar genre archetype, as he sets out to adapt author and illustrator Aaron Blabey's series of bestselling kid-centric graphic novels for cinema audiences both young and old alike.

Set in a fictitious city that looks very much like Los Angeles, the story revolves around the gang of criminals known as the Bad Guys. A five-member team comprised of curmudgeonly safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), high tech wizard Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), always-hungry master of disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), the hotheaded Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), and leader Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), this quartet of thieves have been a huge thorn in the side of the city's chief of police, Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein), for as long as anyone can remember. But when the newly elected governor, Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), announces that the Bad Guys are nothing but a bunch of second-rate has-beens, it spurs Wolf to prove her wrong by pulling off a heist that will make them legends — stealing the highly coveted Golden Dolphin statuette from the Museum of Fine Art.

It's a risky scheme that will require Wolf and his pals to bypass three levels of security and snatch the prize from right under the noses of the attendees at the annual Good Samaritan Awards, where Diane is slated to present the award to this year's recipient, Professor Rupert Marmalade (Richard Ayoade). Unfortunately for the Bad Guys, their carefully choreographed plan ends with them falling flat on their faces; however, not before Professor Marmalade suggests an intriguing social experiment. Convinced that he can turn this group of dastardly villains into beloved heroes, Marmalade invites the notorious fivesome to his oceanside mansion, where he's designed a series of exercises to show them how good it is to be good. When the gang is framed by an unlikely culprit for the theft of a valuable meteorite, though, they'll have to prove to everyone just how reformed they truly are.

What follows will see this rag-tag band of cartoon anti-heroes surprising even themselves, as they attempt to thwart a diabolical plan involving an army of 200,000 brainwashed guinea pigs and an ambitious, over-the-top plot to commit the greatest robbery in the city's history. What's most surprising, however, is just how charming and entertaining the entire family-friendly endeavor actually is, thanks to the movie's eye-catching, cell-shaded art style and its witty, quick-fire humor, not to mention the pitch-perfect portrayals from the ensemble voice cast.

It all adds up to a crowd-pleasing romp that gives the likes of Sing 2, The Secret Life of Pets and The Mitchells vs. the Machines a run for their money. Yet, as with any good children's fare, there's also a heartwarming message beneath it all — one about friendship, challenging stereotypes and never judging a book by its cover. Suffice to say, The Bad Guys has all the makings of a successful animated franchise. And with fourteen books in the graphic novel series to date, one can only hope that we'll see this colorful crew return for another caper or two.

The Bad Guys releases April 22nd, 2022 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for action and rude humor. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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