Review by Dan Skip Allen
Dreamworks has had its share of successful animated franchises, such as Shrek and the How to Train Your Dragon films. They seem to have a knack for turning a generic animated film into a beloved franchise by millions of people. The Bad Guys is their latest foray into the animated realm. Once again, Universal and Dreamworks hope they have a hit on their hands.
"The Bad Guys" consists of Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), and Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos). Together, they are the world's best criminals. Even the best criminals get caught, though. To avoid going to prison, they agree to do one last con: to go straight. Under their mentor Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), they try to fool the world into believing they are now good guys.
The Bad Guys is a fun adventure mystery that Universal/Dreamworks hopes to garner some popularity with the audience, which will, in turn, create word of mouth. There isn't a lot of children's fare in the theaters for parents to take their kids to other than Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
One of the things I always look for in a great animated film is the particular style of animation used in the given film. Ever since I saw the trailer for The Bad Guys, I was drawn to the animation style the film uses. It's no Pixar or Disney animation, but it's solid and different from anything I've seen before. It's a little undone, making it work for these characters and this particular film. This film didn't need the best-looking animation to make it work.
Etan Cohen and Yoni Brenner's screenplay is based on books by Aaron Blabey. Director Pierre Perifel has worked in animation for a while now, having worked on Kung Fu Panda 2, Rise of the Guardians, and Bilby. This is only his second directional outing, though. His unique style lent itself to these characters and this story. I felt that he understood this world and how to make it work in the context of the story and characters.
All great animated films have a great voice overcast, and this one delivers, led by Sam Rockwell as Mr. Wolf. He leans in on the cool, tough-guy routine, but his team also trusts him as a leader. The others, including Marc Maron and Awkwafina, are all very good. They all have their parts to play in this fun adventure mystery thriller. A couple I haven't mentioned yet that are pretty good are Zazie Beetz as Diane Foxington, a sly yet sneaky fox with her own secrets, and Alex Borstein as Misty Luggins, the police chief. They round out a great cast of voiceover actors.
The Bad Guys has a sweetness and charm despite its unpolished look. The slight messiness of the animation lends itself to this story and film. The fact that these are bad guys trying to become good brings everything full circle from the animation to the story and everything in between. A great voiceover cast puts this film focusing on "The Bad Guys" in the category of good.
The Bad Guys hits theaters on April 22.