It’s billed as a U, but the wee ’uns might struggle with the twisty-turny plotting in this frenetic adaptation of Aaron Blabey’s book series. It’s about a group of anthropomorphic animal villains becoming goodies, and there are enough unmaskings and surprising reveals to seriously confound the unfocused.
The bad guys are a posse of bank robbers led by Danny Ocean-alike Mr Wolf (Sam Rockwell). Also in the posse? A master-of-disguises shark, a safe-cracking snake, a hacker tarantula and a piranha with gas. Outsmarted by the cunning fox (literally) who runs the town, they’re forced to undergo reconditioning by moralising guinea pig Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade).
After Holmes & Watson and an only slightly lesser degree Get Hard, an Etan Cohen screenwriting credit feels a bit like a red flag, and there’s nothing especially witty in this script he co-wrote. The Bad Guys will work better for kids than adults: the comedy is broad, with farting not just a major source of laughs but an entire plot device, and the characters aren’t quite as lovable as the movie thinks they are, despite a winning voice cast that also boasts Marc Maron, Zazie Beetz and Awkwafina.
Farting not just a major source of laughs here, but an entire plot device
But there’s a fizzy energy to the action, particular in the helter-skelter chase scenes, that stops those flaws bursting its bubble. And the cartoony animation style is pretty cool, elevating it above CG fare like Despicable Me et al. Smug Professor Marmalade is right after all: there is some good in these bad guys.
In Australian cinemas Mar 31. Out in the UK April 1 and US theaters Apr 22.