The premise of a group of stereotypically scary animals banding together to commit crimes and trying to turn themselves around is one with plenty of potential. Author Aaron Blabey tapped into this idea with the book series, “The Bad Guys,” in 2015, and now, DreamWorks Animation brings it to the big screen.
The resulting feature film has some of the slickest animation in the studio’s history and some fun moments courtesy of the voice cast. However, the humor and pacing are a little inconsistent, leading to a heist movie that almost works but falls slightly below expectations.
Pierre Perifel, a French animator making his directorial debut, and the talented artists at DreamWorks give the film a stylized look. This continues a recent, welcomed trend of computer-animated films taking on a 2D aesthetic, following in the footsteps of films like “The Peanuts Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” as well as Disney shorts like “Feast” and “Far from the Tree.” The 2D look comes primarily in the use of outlines on the characters and the occasional effect.
Another winning aspect of “The Bad Guys” comes from the voice cast. Sam Rockwell (pickpocket Mr. Wolf), Marc Maron (safe-cracker Mr. Snake), Craig Robinson (master of disguise Mr. Shark), Anthony Ramos (the short fuse Mr. Piranha) and Awkwafina (expert hacker Ms. Tarantula) all work off of each other pretty well. They give a ton of energy to their characters, and their line deliveries offer some laughs.
Alex Borstein is the standout of the cast, as the voice of an officer who’s been waiting to put the gang behind bars for years. Borstein sells the character’s temper and eagerness.
The film has plenty of fun moments. The opening car chase gives the audience an idea of what to expect. A real highlight comes from a scene where the gang attends a charity gala. As they attempt to pull off a heist, they start to enjoy the feeling of being good, all set to a fun song sung by Mr. Piranha, allowing Ramos to showcase his singing talent.
Where the movie falls somewhat flat is in the story and humor. While the characters are likable, their journey is not entirely engaging. It follows the expected beats, and the pacing feels off as well. The first hour or so goes by at a decent speed, but the third act and climax feel slightly long.
While there are good laughs to be found, it seems like the best jokes were in the trailers for the film, including Mr. Shark enacting one of his disguises and the team trying to rescue a cat. Other attempts at humor can elicit a smile or a small chuckle but never the same hearty laughs the two aforementioned scenes did in the trailers.
“The Bad Guys” is ultimately one of those films with a lot to admire, like its animation, cast and some of its humor. However, it is unfortunately brought down, even if only slightly, by an underwhelming story and several of the laughs falling flat.