Wolf (voice of Sam Rockwell) is the debonair leader of an animal crime family. Other members include Snake (voice of Marc Maron), his sarcastic lieutenant who cracks open safes without the benefit of hands; Piranha (voice of Anthony Ramos), the young “muscle” of the gang; the sensitive Shark (voice of Craig Robinson), a master of disguise; and Tarantula or “Webs” (voice of Awkwafina), the sharp-witted computer genius and the only female in the gang. They love saying, “We might be bad, but we’re good at it!”
This enjoyable animated film starts with the crew stealing the Good Samaritan Award that will be presented to Professor Marmalade (voice of Richard Ayoade), a pompous guinea pig, by Governor Diane Foxington (voice of Zazie Beetz).
When they are caught, Foxington tells them they are “a crew in decline” who steals because they are angry, steeped in self-loathing, and trapped in their own stereotypes. They know people are afraid of them, and since that will never change, why should they try now? Professor Marmalade, however, believes everyone can change and urges Foxington to let the crooks prove it instead of going to jail.
Against all odds, Professor Marmalade’s words have a positive effect on them. He gives each one an opportunity to do good. They resist but still manage to get with the new program—until a master manipulator and a gorgeous thief are unexpectedly revealed. Changing from bad to good is not as black-and-white as Professor Marmalade tells them.
The Bad Guys is directed by Pierre Perifel and based on the books by Aaron Blabey. The animation is gorgeous. Etan Cohen wrote the script, but the “additional screenplay material,” provided by Yoni Brenner and Hilary Winston, bog down the flow with unnecessary plot twists. The strength of the film, however, is how it uses negative stereotypes to build a positive story, showing that change is possible and that we don’t have to accept the cards we are dealt in life. We can risk change by doing good and believing that everyone deserves a second chance. The film is in theaters now.
A-2, PG • Cartoon peril.
Many will remember the 2019 Right to Life March in Washington, DC, thanks to the confrontation between students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky and Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist. Phillips played a ceremonial drum as he stepped in between the students and members of the Black Hebrew Israelites. They ended up in a face-to-face encounter with Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann, who seemed to be smirking at Phillips. The video went viral because the news media interpreted the encounter as hostile and racist. The media left out details of the event as well as the broader context provided by additional video footage.
In The Boys in Red Hats—a title that refers to the red MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) hats many of the Covington Catholic students wore that day—filmmaker Jonathan Schroder, himself a Covington Catholic alumnus, takes a deep dive into the events of January 18, 2019, and explores what happened and the culture of the school that gave rise to the standoff. He says there is more to the images captured that day than what we saw on television and online. Schroder demonstrates that it behooves us all to take a second look inside the White privilege bubble of Covington Catholic, a culture consisting of the diocese, parents, and teachers (one who got away with hitting students for years).
You may not be comfortable when watching The Boys in Red Hats, but the film may convince you to question the news media and to “empathize with people who are not walking in your shoes or do not have what you have.” The film is available for streaming on Vudu.
Not yet rated • Racism, conflict.
In the 1800s, when princes still ruled in Italy, Luciano (Gabriele Silli), the son of a doctor in a rural town, searches for meaning in life. We know this because the legend is being retold in a modern-day tavern along the Italian seacoast. The old-timers share bits and pieces of the story of Luciano, knowing that, with each telling, details change so much that no one knows what’s true anymore.
Luciano falls in love with Emma (Maria Alexandra Lungu), but their union is ill-fated. The prince’s men trick Emma into following them into the castle. Luciano, angry at the prince’s interference in the lives of the people, sets the castle on fire. He escapes to Argentina and emerges as Father Antonio, a Salesian priest in search of gold.
Written and directed by Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis, this beautifully filmed arthouse story meanders its way across the screen and invites us to think about life’s meaning and what is important. It also shows us that violence solves nothing. The Tale of King Crab, in limited theatrical release, is in Italian with English subtitles.
Not yet rated • Violence.