Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Bad Guys (movie and a book)

First, I went to see this movie last week when I had nothing better to do. Believe it or not, it seemed the best choice of eight or so films that were on offer, what with ones I'd already seen, a couple I had no intention of ever seeing and two or three options I was willing to try. I think I chose this movie because it seemed like it would be the least work for me to enjoy. Which, sometimes, is a good thing to know.

The movie's voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Craig Robinson, Alex Borstein and Anthony Ramos, among others, as characters in a world mainly peopled by anthropmorphic animals. Mr. Wolf and his gang, Messrs. Snake, Shark and Piranha and Ms. Tarantula, are a well known pack of Bad Guys, eluding police after a string of well-publicized heists, when the new mayor – a Fox with a hidden past – challenges them in the press. They decide to humiliate her by stealing a trophy of goodness just as it's about to be awarded to Dr. Marmalade (a saintly guinea pig) at the climax of a charity gala. But Wolf is having second thoughts. At their last heist, he inadvertently did a good deed and an indescribable feeling came over him ‐ it made him wag his tail. With the prize almost within reach, Wolf is already thinking about switching sides and turning his crew into the Good Guys. Then everything goes wrong, and actually trying to change their spots (or whatever) becomes essential to staying free.

To jump ahead without giving away too much, Wolf and his long-suffering friends try to go on the straight and narrow, but it turns out that all along they've been the dupes of a villain in do-gooder's fur. From there, things develop quickly into a wacky chase through the streets and airspace of a city that needs the Bad Guys to act like heroes, even if nobody expects them to. And with dissension within the gang, a lot will depend on the power of friendship.

It's a goofy, action-packed, thrill-ride of a family film, full of gags based on the permeable lines between cute animals and monsters, saints and sinners, heroes and villains, winners and losers. I don't expect it to sweep the Academy Awards or anything, but I didn't feel like getting up and walking out at any time during it, which is more than I could say for the previous movie or two I've seen in theaters. It made me think that this might not be such a bad time to be a kid at the movies. Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) The moment when you realize exactly whose side Mr. Snake is on. (2) A security guard isn't sure whether a guest is a pretty girl or a shark in disguise. (3) An army of mesmerized guinea pigs knocks over a convoy of armored trucks. I told you it was goofy.

On a related note...

Mission Unpluckable
by Aaron Blabey
Recommended Ages: 10+

Messrs. Wolf, Snake, Shark and Piranha, introduced in the original The Bad Guys, are joined by a computer-hacking tarantula named Legs in their second attempt to prove to the world that they can be good guys. This time, they set their sights on liberating a flock of chickens from a high-security farm where they're kept in tiny cages. Getting the chickens out will not only call upon their ability to pull off ridiculous feats of infiltration, not to mention Legs' keyboarding skills and Shark's genius for disguise, but will also challenge Mr. Snake to rise above his nature and Mr. Shark to get over his fear of spiders. Despite their weaknesses (and boy, do they have some), these guys, good or bad, prove just how far they will go for friendship.

This is the second of 13 "Bad Guys" books, which fall into a unique crack between children's picture books and junior-level graphic novels, perhaps better described as graphic chapter books. They're not just heavily illustrated; there is no body text at all: just storyboard panels with dialogue typed in, connected to characters' images by sweeping arcs, and sound effects illustrated comic-book style. The hero animals are hilarious, expressive, more or less anthropomorphic cartoon animals. The story is loaded with blockbuster-movie-parodying moments that make it kind of ironic that an animation studio decided to make a movie out of it. As those who have seen the movie based on this franchise may be interested to know, this is the book in which the main characters first meet the guinea pig, Marmalade, featured in the movie.

Other titles in the series include The Furball Strikes Back, Attack of the Zittens, Intergalactic Gas, Alien vs. Bad Guys, Do-You-Think-He-Saurus?!, Superbad, The Big Bad Wolf, The Baddest Day Ever, Dawn of the Underlord, The One?! and Cut to the Chase. Aaron Blabey's children's books also include two "Thelma the Unicorn" titles, 10 "Pig the Pug" books, the upcoming Cat on the Run, and such titles as Piranhas Don't Eat Bananas, Busting, I Need a Hug, Don't Call Me Bear!, Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, Sunday Chutney, Stanley Paste, The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon, The Dreadful Fluff, Noah Dreary, The Brothers Quibble and Guff.

No comments: