Nature vs. nurture has long been debated on and off the screen. Now Dreamworks is bringing the conversation to a younger audience in their latest animated endeavor. Based on Aaron Blabey’s series of children’s graphic novels, The Bad Guys follows five historically dangerous anthropomorphic animals as they run around their city carrying out heists. Think Ocean’s 11 for kids.
Leading the charge is Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), the charismatic and suave head of the Bad Guys. His number two is the always grumpy Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), a safe expert. Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson) is a master of disguise, Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos) is the muscle of the group, and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina) is the team’s hacker.
After getting caught stealing the Golden Dolphin, a trophy earned through good deeds, the group convinces Governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) and award recipient Professor Rupert Marmalade IV (Richard Ayoade) to give them the chance to right their wrongs and change their ways. Obviously, they are faking. However, once Mr. Wolf starts being on his best behavior, it’s hard for him to stop, shaking the foundation of his friend group.
The voice cast is right on point, with Rockwell, Maron, Robinson, and Beetz all playing to type. This isn’t a bad thing. Maron plays the grumpy guy well and brings out the loveable side of Mr. Snake. Ayoade, a staple in the British comedy scene, is utilized perfectly here as the good samaritan guinea pig with a nasal voice and proves why he needs to be in more projects here in the states.
Director Pierre Perifel uses a “scratchy” freehand feel to the film’s animation. While still CGI, the graphic novel aesthetic feels fresh amidst films like Turning Red and Raya and the Last Dragon that have a shiny quality to them. As for the story, The Bad Guys’ message is never trite or saccharine. Its fast pacing still hits the narrative beats it needs to without rushing the pacing. It might be run-of-the-mill, but it’s done well.
While The Bad Guys often drifts into the absurd, it never loses its heart. It doesn’t feel over ridiculous, like the later Ice Age films, The Boss Baby, or Spies in Disguise. It manages to stay grounded and still be slightly silly. The potty humor is kept to a minimum and many of the jokes land for both younger and older audiences. To say the least, The Bad Guys is a charming romp through right and wrong.
The Bad Guys hits theaters April 22. Watch the trailer below.