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"THE BAD GUYS"
(2022) (voices of Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Computer-Animated Action/Comedy: A criminal quintet of animals consider turning good to have charges against them dropped.
PLOT:

Wolf (voice of SAM ROCKWELL), Snake (voice of MARC MARON), Tarantula (voice of AWKWAFINA), Shark (voice of CRAIG ROBINSON), and Piranha (voice of ANTHONY RAMOS) are a quintet of thieves who use their animal-based reputations to scare humans and thus make their crimes easier to pull off, all while always managing to elude Police Chief Misty Luggins (voice of ALEX BORSTEIN) and her police force. But the new fox governor, Diane Foxington (voice of ZAZIE BEETZ), is less than impressed and her badmouthing of the "bad guys" as they're known motivates them to pull off a big heist.

And that would be the golden dolphin statue awarded to the year's best samaritan, with that being guinea pig Professor Marmalade (voice of RICHARD AYOADE) who always manages to see the best in people. That comes into play when the bad guys are nabbed trying to steal the golden dolphin, only to have Marmalade offer to reform them in exchange for their freedom should he succeed.

Foxington isn't thrilled with the idea but begrudgingly goes along with the offer, with Wolf planning on playing along to assure that charges against them be dropped. But as some of them experience good feelings for the first time, they must contend with surprising revelations about some of those around them.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

When it comes to human behavior, there will always be the debate of whether that stems more from nature (meaning the programming, so to speak, that one is hard-wired with) or nurture (how one is raised and the effect of life experiences and interactions with others). I've always thought it's a combination of both, albeit leaning more toward the latter having a greater influence.

It's a bit easier for animals, at least those that have no interactions with humans, resulting in them not holding a reactive, mean-streak grudge, so to speak, which would be the case for otherwise domesticated dogs that are mistreated by people. But at the same time, those treated with love will reciprocate that. All of that's part of the underlying theme of "The Bad Guys," a computer-animated action-comedy where a quintet of anthropomorphized animals are the title characters who are career thieves.

The question is whether that stems from their inherent nature -- the group consists of a wolf, snake, tarantula, shark, and piranha -- or the fact that the humans they share Earth with automatically view them as villains (which makes it easier to rob banks when everyone is fleeing) and thus they're just living up to the level of their public perception.

For anyone worrying all of that means some sort of deep dive into sociological issues, fear not, dear reader, for while such matters are occasionally touched upon throughout the film's 100-minute runtime, they take a back seat to the film's main focus.

And that's being a caper sort of flick along the lines of "Ocean's Eleven," especially with Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell) clearly giving off a definite George Clooney vibe. He's the suave leader of the group where Snake (voice of Marc Maron) is the safecracker; Tarantula (Awkwafina) is the tech wiz; Shark (Craig Robinson) is the master of disguise, and Piranha (Anthony Ramos) is the gassy muscle.

After the opening sequence where they knock off a bank and avoid the police chief (Alex Borstein), they're smugly full of themselves. That is, until the new governor, Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), publicly belittles them, prompting them to show her by plotting to steal the gold dolphin award that's to be awarded to the good samaritan of the year, Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade).

When that's thwarted and they're captured, the professor offers to turn the bad guys into good guys to have the charges against them dropped. While that would seem to suggest the story would then focus on such attempts at a change and fresh start, the script from Etan Cohen (adapting Aaron Blabey's books with some "additional screenplay material" -- whatever that means -- by Yoni Brenner and Hilary Winston) throws in a couple of twists and turns that director Pierre Perifel uses to keep things moving at a brisk pace in a mostly different direction.

Overall, it's a generally entertaining crime caper that adults won't mind watching, thanks in part to the characterizations and vocal work. That said, at times, it also occasionally feels like it's frenetically sprawling all over the place (especially in the third act), but the film's target audience -- kids who like talking animal flicks -- probably won't notice or mind.

As someone removed from that demographic by many decades, I didn't either and found "The Bad Guys" good enough to score a 6 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed April 20, 2022 / Posted April 22, 2022


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