The Bad Guys

The Bad Guys ★★★

It's easy to sneer at the kind of kid's movie that's loaded with jokes and references for the grown-ups in the audience, mostly because that seems to be the default mode for family films now. My son had the first Bad Guys book and I think it was like 20 pages long, so I'm going to assume The Bad Guys is an adaptation in only the broadest sense. If I were being snarky I'd say this is like a film that would be made by the main character of The Mitchells vs. the Machines, a wacky send-up of dorm-room perennial favorites that the target audience hasn't seen. But my more sympathetic side recalls all those Mad Magazine parodies I read as a kid, most of them based on movies for grown-ups that I hadn't seen, either. So I enjoyed it, Trevor.

It's visually a lot of fun to look at, with stylized CGI animation that creates a fully-realized three-dimensional world, but doesn't feel stifled by the need to model everything in a strict way. The characters squash and stretch, gesturing in expressive and over-the-top ways, and the "funny animal" characters pay tribute to the notable legacy of Disney (especially Robin Hood and Zootopia: I guess sexy foxes never go out of style).

Meanwhile, there's a tightly-plotted script that riffs on Ocean's Eleven, Lupin III, and the complete works of one Quentin Tarantino, among other things. The struggle of characters "born bad" to become good isn't super deep (there's a literal "save the cat" moment), but the conflicts are clearly-drawn, relatable, and amusing, and the heists and double- (and triple-) crosses keep it entertaining and engaging to the end.

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