This is Tarantino for ankle-biters with a bit of Ocean’s 11 thrown in: funny, energetic and just smart enough. It’s an animated caper from DreamWorks about a gang of career criminals, crewed by five of the animal kingdom’s worst of the worst: a wolf, shark, snake, piranha and tarantula. Tropic Thunder writer Etan Cohen, adapting the kids’ books by Aaron Blabey, gives us some tongue-in-cheek comedy, though perhaps not quite enough originality to make it actually memorable.
Leader of the Bad Guys is smooth-talking Mr Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell, doing his suavest George Clooney impersonation). After a series of front-page heists, the Bad Guys are caught red-handed trying to steal a gold statue being awarded to a philanthropic guinea pig. He’s Professor Marmalade, a wet do-gooder beautifully played with a passive-aggressive whine by Richard Ayoade. To dodge a stretch in the clink, the Bad Guys pretend to go straight. The trouble is that Mr Wolf gets a taste for the good life. In one very funny moment, his tail wags uncontrollably after a virtuous deed, to his mortification.
There’s a lot to like about this movie, partly because it’s got decent female characters who kick butt in genuinely interesting and non-cliched ways. Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz is supremely classy as the city’s Hillary 2.0 pantsuit-wearing, electric-car-driving governor, a sassy fox called Diane Foxington. (This ought to put Beetz on the go-to list for live-action butt-kickers). Awkwafina plays Tarantula, a super-cool hacker.
If we are being honest, The Bad Guys relies on some secondhand plot developments and double-crosses that you can see coming from the moon. That said, the five-year-old sitting next to me whooped with glee watching a horde of zombified guinea pigs swarm a bridge – and gave the whole movie a score of 10 stars out of five. Really, you could do worse over the Easter holidays.