Several reformed yet misunderstood criminal animals attempt to become good, with some disastrous results along the way.

Chuck says:

I wish I liked “The Bad Guys” more than I do. The book by Aaron Blabey is a delightful take on getting past preconceptions and self-fulling prophecies, and while those elements are present, they’re stifled by a manic approach that delivers headaches rather than a subtle lesson on acceptance. In order to get the story up to feature length, screenwriters Etan Cohen, Yoni Brenner and Hilary Winston needlessly complicate matters with subplots that are likely to confuse younger viewers, while maddening the adults they’ve drug to the movie with them.

Wolf (voice by Sam Rockwell) is a suave bank robber whose crew – Snake (Marc Maron), Tarantula (Awkwafina), Shark (Craig Robinson) and Piranha (Anthony Ramos) – have become experts at knocking over banks or swiping rare pieces of art. Their reasoning is that being who they are, people already assume the worst about them so why not confirm those beliefs and be as bad as they can?

Cocky to the extreme, Wolf has gotten a bit jaded. However, a challenge presents itself in the form of the Golden Dolphin Award, which is to be given to Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade) at a lavish ceremony overseen by Governor Foxington (Zazie Beetz). Needless to say, it goes sideways and our anti-heroes find themselves in custody. However, redemption is at hand when it’s suggested Marmalade pull a “My Fair Lady” and bring out the bad guys’ good sides.

The film hits its high mark during these sequences as the professor’s best efforts to reform the titular characters go horribly wrong. Their ingrained behavior can’t be overturned in a single day and the chaos that ensues because their first instincts are to do bad lead to some hilarious moments.

Regrettably, this is all very short-lived as the story becomes convoluted past all reason.  More than a few double-crosses are employed, so many in fact that the seasoned viewer will likely see the later “surprises” coming. Most frustrating is that the colorful cast of characters are hardly developed or allowed to interact with one another for any meaningful span of time.  The voice actors employed are a talented bunch and, other than their inherent “badness,” these characters are a disparate group. Their natural differences provide comic fodder that goes undeveloped, a great deal of comic gold going unmined and the film suffers for it.

Instead, director Pierre Perifel opts for far too many manic action sequences, all of them done in such a hyperactive manner that they’re likely to cause seizures. So much is going on during these scenes that it’s hard to concentrate on anything. Cars, animals and gizmos are flying, moving and careening all at once, a kaleidoscope of mayhem that takes the viewer out of the story, the visual vomit so distracting. Don’t be surprised if you turn your face from the screen to avoid a case of motion sickness.

It’s too bad Blabey’s simple message is obscured by the desperate measures Perifel and his unimaginative screenwriters resort to. When Wolf inadvertently does something nice, is thanked for it and finds his tail wagging involuntarily thanks to the sense of joy that washes over him, a sense of sincerity emerges that signals the film is on to something special. This is undone as soon as a horde of zombie guinea pigs appear and, a car chase follows.  Perifel doesn’t trust the audience, opting for a by-the-numbers approach that panders to the lowest common denominator. Instead of challenging its young audience, “Guys” just gives us the same old thing, albeit, cranked to 11.

2 Stars

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