I’m far from what you would call an animated film connoisseur. For reasons that I’ve never quite been able to pinpoint, animated movies have never registered with me in the same way they do with millions of other moviegoers. Now there are some I’ve genuinely loved (“The Illusionist”, “The Lego Movie”, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “Ratatouille”). But it’s nearly impossible for me to muster the enthusiasm others do whenever a big new animated feature is announced. I’m kinda jealous.
But there was something about the trailer for the recent Dreamworks Animation film “The Bad Guys” that clicked with me. Not enough to get me to see it at the theater, but definitely enough to check it out on Peacock where it’s now streaming. Directed by Pierre Perifel and written by Etan Cohen, “The Bad Guys” touted an interesting premise and was said to pull inspiration from a variety of films like “Oceans Eleven”, “Reservoir Dogs”, and “Pulp Fiction”. And then there’s a cast: Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Zazie Beetz, Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, and more.
Loosely based on a children’s book series by Aaron Blabey, “The Bad Guys” follows a notorious criminal gang of anthropomorphic animals. We have their smooth-talking leader, Mr. Wolf (Rockwell); his cranky best friend and the gang’s safecracker, Mr. Snake (Maron); hacker extraordinaire, Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina); a master of disguise, Mr. Shark (Robinson); and there’s Mr. Piranha (Ramos), a loose cannon who loves a good fight.
Together they have avoided capture despite the dogged efforts of the manic Police Chief Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein). That’s because they always play it smart and never make a job personal. But after the newly elected Governor Foxington (Beetz) puts them down in a televised speech, Wolf decides to pull a heist that will prove their reputation and cement their legacy.
Their job is a big one – steal a trophy called The Golden Dolphin during a gala where it is set to be presented to Professor Rupert Marmalade IV (Richard Ayoade), a beloved guinea pig philanthropist. But their caper hits a snag after Wolf gets an unexpected taste of being good. Things go south, the gang loses the Dolphin, and a conflicted Wolf begins to rethink their Bad Guy status.
As stories goes, this one has it moments in large part thanks to the characters and the terrific voice work. There’s nothing particularly innovative here and it’s not as funny as I had hoped. But there’s a good chemistry between our reluctant heroes that makes them fun to spend time with. And the animation style is inspired and more often than not quite good.
Unfortunately the movie does fall victim to some of the same tired gags that seem to find their ways into many modern animated films. For example, Perifel and Cohen not only throw in fart jokes and butt jokes, but they come back to them several times. I also found myself checking out a bit during the chaotic and unrestrained finale. But while these things bring “The Bad Guys” down a notch, there’s still plenty to like especially if you’re already a fan of the formula that many of these Hollywood animated films follow. “The Bad Guys” is now streaming on Peacock.