THE BAD GUYS – Review by Martha K Baker

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These bad guys are animals. Literally. Furthermore, these animals are animated criminals. They populate myths and cartoons, stories and metaphors. You have your charmer, Wolf, a deft pickpocket. You have Snake, a wily safe-cracker. Included in the mob are Piranha, whose fuse is short; Shark, in drag; and Tarantula, a multi-legged hacker.

They were never given a chance to be anything but second-rate criminals. When the gang is finally caught, Mr. Wolf, whose charm offensive is referred to as “the full Clooney,” negotiates a deal to keep them from prison with a promise to turn good. “We may be bad,” he says, “but we’re so good.”

The characters are voiced by Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, Marc Maron, Craig Robinson, and Anthony Ramos with Richard Ayodade as the Professor and Alex Borstein as the police chief.

They are juxtaposed against a Good Samaritan known as Professor Marmalade, the pig, and encouraged by foxy Diane Foxington. They plan to present the Golden Dolphin to the “goodest citizen,” the best of the good guys, but the bad guys plot to steal the award.

Yes, the plot is tricky and convoluted, and big chunks make no sense. “The Bad Guys” is based on the Scholastic series by Aaron Blabey from a screenplay by Etan Cohen, known for Men in Black 3. The Bad Guys plays off caper movies, but it does not always play well. The film is directed by Pierre Perifel, known for Kung Fu Panda 2. The Bad Guys is way too long and loud, including the music, and holds little novelty, but it does offer lessons in distinguishing trust from distrust.

It also offers humor along with its messages about friendship and kindness. For example, when a little old lady says “good boy” to Mr. Wolf, he cannot keep his tail from wagging. The Bad Guys, for all its noise, has its heart in the right place.

Do keep watching through the coda for a treat.

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Martha K. Baker

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.