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The Bad Guys

"a delightful romp from start to finish"

★★★★ - STUFF 

- Finally, an animated animal adventure that’s fun for ALL the family - 

After a few fallow years of disappointing anthropomorphic animal antics, finally we have a real inventive, entertaining crowd pleaser that’s fun for all the family.

A terrific romp that I’d wager is best of its type since Judy Hopps joined the Zootopia police force six years ago, this offers a terrific twist on traditional heist movie tropes and is essentially the Ocean’s sequel we all wish Steven Soderbergh would have made.

Of course, it helps that there’s such strong source material. Australian author Aaron Blabey’s book series has been a runaway success among young readers, who have voraciously lapped up the 15 tales released since 2015. And, as is the case in print, the appeal here is much about the individual characters, as the overall criminal gang’s repeatedly failed attempts to perform good deeds to change society’s opinion of them (although, as any well-read Bad Guys tween will happily inform you, their motives now appear to be a little less altruistic).

Hilariously introduced to us as they casually plot, stake out and execute their latest bank heist, while seemingly more interesting in points-scoring and bickering with one another, we learn that the quintet of “Bad Guys” consists of smooth shyster Mr Wolf (Sam Rockwell), sarcastic safe-cracking specialist Mr Snake (Marc Maron), short-fused, loose cannon Mr Piranha (Anthony Ramos), apex predator of 1000 faces Mr Shark (Craig Robinson) and travelling tech wizard Ms Tarantula (Awkwafina).

“Do I wish people didn’t see us monsters?” Wolf asks in one of many direct-to-camera asides. “These are the cards we’ve been dealt – we might as well play them….We may be bad, but we’re so good at it.”

However, while many citizens see them as the most diabolical animals of all time, new governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) is far more dismissive. “I feel sorry for them. They carry out second-rate, unoriginal capers and they seem to possess a hole of denial and self-loathing so big that no amount of cash and artwork can fill.”

Perhaps inspired by those cutting words, Wolf decides it’s time to raise the stakes and for them to tackle “the Holy Grail of thievery”. Stealing the symbol of the annual Good Samaritan Awards – the Golden Dolphin – is the heist that has broken many a collective of ne’re-do-wells. Wolf though, is convinced he has a foolproof plan to bypass all three levels of security and complete the epic job he believes will “cement their legacy”.

Brought to life with a swagger and style that Soderbergh would be proud of (split screens, smarm and pithy one-liners abound), The Bad Guys is just a delightful romp from start to finish.

The impressive vocal cast, which also includes The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Alex Borstein and Richard Ayoade, all sound like they are having a ball, with Jojo Rabbit’s Rockwell the highlight, going “full Clooney” as he charms his way out of even the stickiest of situations.

Clever use of the full frame means audiences are advised to keep their eyes on the background action at all times, while it would be churlish not to at least warn Cavy Club members that the “Rolls Royce of Rodents” does come in for something of a hard time here.

That aside, with its twists, triple-crosses and Daniel Pemberton’s (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) terrific soundtrack, The Bad Guys is definitely well worth seeking out at a cinema near you these school holidays.

- James Croot, STUFF

The Bad Guys is now playing at Light House Petone and Pauatahanui - all tickets are at kids prices!

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