It's that time of year again. The weather is getting warmer and both students and teachers are counting down the days until summer vacation. It's also the time when movie studios start ramping up their summer blockbuster movie offerings, along with all the family-friendly, animated features.
While we know the big mouse has at least one more animated film being released in the next six months, DreamWorks Animation and Universal Pictures are releasing their summer kids' movie this week. The Bad Guys, starring Sam Rockwell (Confessions of A Dangerous Mind), Marc Maron (Almost Famous), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), Anthony Ramos (Hamilton), and Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), etc. mixes mystery, action, and comedy for a movie the whole family will love.
Mr. Wolf (Rockwell) heads up a notorious criminal gang in Los Angeles. The group, including Snake (Maron), Webs/Tarantula (Awkwafina), Piranha (Ramos), and Shark (Craig Robinson; Hot Tub Time Machine) plan to take a break from their life of crime until they are insulted on television by the new Governor, Diane Foxington (Beetz). Suddenly Wolf comes up with a plan for the gang's greatest heist yet - stealing The Golden Dolphin which is to be presented to the philanthropist guinea pig, Professor Rupert Marmalade VI (Richard Ayoade; The Watch). The elusive Dolphin has never successfully been stolen though many have tried.
Making his animated feature film debut, director Pierre Perifel blends a mixture of 2D and 3D animation to give the film a layered feel with quite a bit of textural detail throughout. He keeps the pace of the film moving even with the twists and turns woven throughout the plot. He also throws in some humor that both little kids and adults will enjoy. Based on his first foray into feature film directing, it seems Perifel will have a long career ahead of him.
The cast is terrific, especially Rockwell and Beetz. Of course, Awkwafina is easily identifiable due to her distinctive voice and her character is so cute I can see stuffed tarantulas on sale shortly. Ramos lends his vocal talents to Piranha and entertains the audience with an upbeat yet soulful song. Wolf and Rockwell remind me a little bit of Bradley Cooper in Limitless (the cleaned-up version, not the struggling author persona he portrays at the beginning of the film).
The music is also a character in this movie, with a jazzy vibe woven throughout the soundtrack and vocal performances. It helps set the tone of the film and remains in the background throughout. The smooth feel often associated with jazz music seems to be an almost tangible element in The Bad Guys and oozes its way in between the beats seeping into the characters, especially Wolf. Based on this, one might have a pre-conceived notion the movie would be seedy, murky, and muted; however, this simply isn't the case as colors pop off the screen inviting viewers inside.
Based on the book series of the same name, The Bad Guys has a great deal to offer but also often falls back on predictable tropes. Of course, like any good children's story, there is a lesson to be learned and the bad guys ultimately learn to put they're less than legal skills to good use.
I can see toddlers, preteens, and their parents all enjoying this movie. There are fun dance moments, a serious mystery to be solved, and some strong character development despite having a mere 100-minute run time. It just goes to show that even a tried and true, the predictable plot can seem fresh and updated with the right mix of cast, crew, music, and animation.