The Bad Guys… aint so bad. And neither is their movie. The film is basically an animated animal version of Oceans 11. A heist movie for the under 12 set, paced to keep both kids and adults at least moderately entertained. The plot revolves around a menagerie of outlaws who get a kick out of grand larceny. Their lifestyle choice is more about the camaraderie than the crime. They just happen to be very good at being bad. Until the law finally catches up with them and they are forced to rethink what they do, who they are, and what they want to be. Good? Bad? A little of both perhaps?

The Bad Guys is based on the scholastic book series by Aaron Blabey and features a fun cast of voices inhabiting the main cast of characters. There’s the safe cracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron); the tech wizard Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), the short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos); the ‘master of disguise’ Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson); and the dashing crew chief/mastermind Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell!). Always hot on their trail is Police Chief Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein).

When the bad guys finally get caught after quite the successful run at evasion, they broker a deal with foxy Governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), who seems keen– along with pompous guinea pig Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade)– to give them a shot at redemption. If the bad guys can learn to be “good”, they can stay out of the slammer. Of course, it’s not that cut and dry. Not everyone is on board with the plan; and not everyone is who they claim to be. For better or worse.

The Bad Guys is directed by Pierre Perifel (Kung Fu Panda animator making his feature-directing debut) and he deftly manages to keeps the action moving while also injecting the necessary amount of heart and humor to deliver well-meaning messages about honesty, friendship, betrayal– and when it’s okay to maybe be a little bit bad. Or perhaps just mischievous.

Watch the trailer and you’ll know if it’s right for you—and the wee ones.

(p.s. while not totally blown away, I did like The Bad Guys more than The Secret Life of Pets)

The Bad Guys opens in theaters (only) April 22.

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