TUCSON, Ariz. — Once a team of good-natured criminals gets a taste of sweet righteousness, they find it tough to return to their comfortable lives of crime.
That's the concept behind "The Bad Guys," a good-natured DreamWorks Animation family film meant to show that there is good in just about everyone, even if misleading exteriors suggest otherwise. On the flip side, those who seem innocent sometimes shelter dark secrets.
The film's setting and themes have echoes of "Zootopia," with hints of prejudice, social justice, and ethical dilemmas abounding. But there are plenty of laughs to make the medicine go down easy.
Much of the comedy is due to expert deliveries by the stacked voice cast. A mic-chewing Sam Rockwell leads the way as Mr. Wolf, the prototypical Big Bad Wolf who acts as the squad's ringleader. Marc Maron checks in as his untrustworthy sidekick Mr. Snake, Awkwafina, sparkles as the conniving Ms. Tarantula. Craig Robinson provides goofy laughs as Mr. Shark, Anthony Ramos bounds with him wild energy as Mr. Piranha.
The story follows the "Ocean's Eleven" template, with double-crosses, red herrings, and surprise revelations from flashbacks that revisit scenes with twists.
Director Pierre Perifel's world is populated by anthropomorphic animals that live alongside humans, who tend to harbor ingrained distrust of their animal brethren.
The narrative, which rarely loses its sense of momentum, dances around clever heists and invigorating chases. That's in contrast to the somewhat muted and drab visuals, which seem to be of the cut-rate variety you'd see in a weekly TV show rather than a big-budget film. Whether the look came from a budget deficiency or more of an artistic choice is hard to say.
The rough visuals end up underlining the film's themes. Like the ragtag crew the film follows, the movie has a better heart than its looks would indicate. "The Bad Guys" flows with overpowering positivity.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
Phil Villarreal is the senior real-time editor for KGUN 9. He is also a digital producer and host of "Phil on Film" seen weekly on Good Morning Tucson, Phil moved to KGUN after 17 years with the Arizona Daily Star, where he was a movie critic, columnist, and reporter. He has penned three books: Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, Stormin' Mormon and Zeta Male. A University of Arizona business graduate, he has four children. Share your story ideas and important issues with Phil by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.