Okay, so you got animals singing (Sing), ones that cause havoc (Peter Rabbit), others that kick-ass (Kung-Fu Panda), and ones that solve crimes (Zootopia), so why not have animals that are crooks and thieves, but want to be good guys?
Based loosely on the children’s books series by Aaron Blabey, this movie takes place in beautiful L.A. and is a world of both humans and anthropomorphic animals. Here, we meet the Bad Guys, a gang of criminal animals and besties led by the suave & sophisticated Mr. Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell). His infamous gang members are: sarcastic safe-cracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), quick-tempered muscle Mr. Piranha who farts a lot (Anthony Ramos), master-of-disguise great white shark Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), and super-computer hacker, Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina).
After a bank heist and dazzling car chase, the gang sets their sights on the unstealable: the Golden Dolphin award, which is to be given to guinea pig philanthropist (and ultra pretentious) Professor Rupert Marmalade IV (Richard Ayoade) by the new governor, Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz). But, during the heist, Wolf helps an old woman and feels a moment of profound goodness, even though they continue their robbery. Until, that is, they get caught by the crazed police chief, Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein). However, Marmalade wants to rehabilitate the Bad Guys and invites them to his massive estate, unaware that Mr. Wolf plans on making it all look good for the media until they can steal again!
Cue the montage where Marmalade tries to mentally reprogram the five into being nice and kind (the freeing trapped guinea pigs scene is a riot!) and the Bad/Good Guys are finally celebrated at a gala party where they plan to resteal the Golden Dolphin award again. But, shocker! Their plans are not only thwarted but one-upped as a powerful and symbolic heart meteor is stolen from the gala and the Bad Guys are framed! Taken to a maximum-security prison at sea (like the MCU), they engage in the requisite “second act break-up that will lead to a third act reconciliation” trope. But at least this one has a few twists and turns along the way to make things interesting.
I wasn’t kidding when I said this is an Oceans 11 for kids, as at one point Mr. Pirahana says about Mr. Wolf, “He’s gonna Clooney her.” You can credit the clever dialogue and twisty script to Etan Cohen, who has written such gems as Get Hard, Tropic Thunder, and Brothers. The humor is all over the map with dumb butt and fart jokes for the kids, but also many moments that I truly was laughing out loud with some wild and hilarious Warner Bros style cartoon violence and sight gags. And the visual look is from the same people at Dreamworks who brought us The Peanuts Movie, so it has a unique stylized blend of CGI and 2D animation.
This is Pierre Perifel’s first directorial gig, having been an animator on the Kung Fu Panda movies, Monsters & Aliens, and more, so he knows about frenetic pacing to ensure that you never get bored. It’s a fun, fast-paced, high-energy, very funny, and engaging movie with the terrific vocal talents of Sam Rockwell as Mr. Wolf, channeling a mélange of George Clooney and Jason Bateman from Zootopia. Okay, so this kiddies film has some outrageous inconsistencies, plot holes, and forced character arcs, but I didn’t care. It was like watching that Oceans 8 film; fun to watch, just don’t think about it too much. Enjoy the lunacy!
**Now showing only in theaters
Sly Cooper (2016)
I guess it looked good on paper. A kids CGI animated feature film based on a series of video games, I mean, what’s not to like, right? It’s done all the time with films like Pokemon, Detective Pikachu, and Sonic the Hedgehog, so why not this?
But first, a backstory: Sly Cooper is a series of semi-popular PS3 video games featuring a raccoon thief (Sly) and his bumbling animal crook pals like Bently the turtle and Murry the hippo, all being pursued by Sly’s girlfriend, Carmelita Fox. It spawned a whole series of games like Sly 2: Band of Thieves and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. It also came up with a comic book line, so this game/story had legs. Naturally, the producers, Brad Foxhoven and David Wohl of Blockade Entertainment decided to make a kid’s film from it. Sounded easy, right?
Using the storyline of the Sly Cooper & the Thievius Raccoonus video game, they got Rainmaker Entertainment Studios (an upcoming American-Canadian 3D computer-animated film co) to come on board in 2014 to make their film. The story? It would be a kinetic and comedic heist film starring team leader, Sly Cooper, and his partners in crime. In the film, Sly would learn that he comes from a long line of international thieves and is catapulted into a global adventure while racing to reassemble pieces of an ancient book containing his family’s lost secrets. There’s also an evil metallic owl bent on ending the Cooper family line. Yes, it sounds a lot like Artemis Fowl, doesn’t it?
Contracts were signed, deals were made, money was sent, vocal talent was sought after, and the news was leaked to fanboys about this upcoming movie. But things quickly got out of hand. The same day the movie was announced, Kevin Miller (who voices Sly on the games) was asked not to repeat his voice-over for the movie! Why? They wanted A-list celebrities in order to attract a wider audience and be more successful. Figures. Then came the complaints from fans about trivial things like “Murray’s look” or “Bentley’s glasses”, thus slowing the process. Meanwhile, another CGI feature film from a video game (by the same company) was released to “test the waters” in 2016. That film was Ratchet & Clank.
It bombed and it bombed hard. At WonderCon 2016, director Kevin Munroe stated that, due to the lousy box office returns of Ratchet & Clank, Rainmaker Studios said they would “have to rethink the timing”. In other words, “don’t call us, we’ll call you!” However, in 2017, Rainmaker Studios uploaded a YouTube trailer for the proposed movie that may be made someday. As promising as that sounds, on December 7, 2017, Rainmaker left the project, selling their rights to four other partners. Due to their departure, everyone in the project (the writer, producer, and director) all jumped ship and have gone on to other projects. All that’s left is a movie trailer on YouTube for a movie that’s never gonna be made. Or will it? You never know!