The Bad Guys
Featured voices: Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Zazie Beetz, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos
DreamWorks’ latest animation is a fun and frantic, if a little too narratively busy, crime caper, adapted by Etan Cohen from the graphic novel by Australian author, Aaron Blabey.
The titular band are a quintet of notorious anthropomorphic criminals. They are smooth-talking ringleader (big bad) Wolf, (Rockwell, doing a very convincing George Clooney), his wingman, sleazy safe-cracking snake (Maron), a bumbling and laughably bad (but somehow convincing to the public) disguise artist, Shark (Robinson), techie and computer whizz Tarantula (Awkwafina) and the very short-tempered Piranha (Ramos).
As the film begins the gang is riding high and having a blast terrorising the law-abiding population. Then a new Governor, canny fox Diane Foxington (Beetz) is elected on a promise to clean up the city and bring them to justice.
To entrap them, she throws a flashy gala with a valuable statue as bait. Diane’s ruse works and the gang are captured. However, Guinea pig boffin Professor Marmalade (Ayoade) persuades Diana to keep them out of jail and instead enrol them in his experimental rehabilitation programme.
Cue several twists and turns and double crosses as the band fall in and out of public affection and a will-they-won’t-they romance between Wolf and Diane plays out, before the bigger picture emerges.
The writer of the original graphic novel Aaron Blabey has spoken of how he wanted to write a Tarantino story for kids (a Taranteeny?), and while there’s certainly an element of that in this adaptation, particularly an obligatory opening sequence set in a diner, it’s far more redolent of the remake of ‘Ocean’s 11’ with a dash of ‘Out of Sight’ in its central romance between a female law enforcer and a disreputable charmer.
The baroque plotting proves a little exhausting, and the script occasionally overegged - was there really a need to have describe Wolf’s Clooneyesque moves as ‘doing a Clooney’? - but the picture throws up some rousingly fun setpieces including a show-stopping musical number. The characters are vividly drawn, in both senses of the word, while French animator, Pierre Perifel’s rendering of the swinging jazzy Vegas-style environs is stylish and seductive.
This being DreamWorks there are a number of in-jokes and homages that will go way over young viewers’ heads, but there’s enough whacky high jinks to keep them engaged.
The Bad Guys is released on April 1st
Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm