Every now and then a studio that isn’t named Disney or Pixar comes out with a new film to remind folks they are still there, waiting for the most opportune moment to deliver a new project. Last years The Mitchells Vs. The Machines and 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse are two of the best animated features not produced by Disney or Pixar. Beyond that, there are plenty of wonderfully animated films to discover especially from DreamWorks and Illumination studios. Though both connected by a thread of Universal Pictures, both studios have a distinct style that stands out from the other.
DreamWorks latest, The Bad Guys doesn’t break any new ground or reinvent the wheel of animation. However, the new film by director Pierre Perifel in his feature film debut is a solid start to a promising career. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Aussie author Aaron Blabey, The Bad Guys features a talented cast of actors lending their voices to the baddest criminal group that wreak havoc across Los Angeles. Some in this space consider “The Bad Guys” past their prime, shallow, and predictable with their heists. In fact, Governor Diane Foxington (Voiced by Zazie Beetz) can spot their actions from a mile away. Maybe it’s because she’s a reformed baddie herself known once as “The Crimson Paw”.
The group of “The Bad Guys” consists of Mr. Wolf (Voiced by Sam Rockwell) leader of the group who is an expert pickpocket, Mr. Snake (Voiced by Marc Maron) the skillful safe cracker, Mr. Piranha (Voiced by Anthony Ramos) the groups muscle, Mr. Shark (Voiced by Craig Robinson) the master-of-disguise, and Ms. Tarantula (Voiced by Awkwafina) the tech genius and hacker. All of whom bring these notorious fabled villains to life with their own distinct personality and chemistry in the recording booth to make this team of thieves familiar yet completely fresh.
Director Pierre Perifel starts this tale of anthropomorphic animals co-existing in a human world with Mr. Wolf and Mr. Snake discussing birthdays, namely Mr. Snakes birthday and why he hates them with every scale on his skin. However, it’s more so the shot that will grab the attention of the older audience. It caught my eye immediately – Perifel takes a page out of the Tarantino book framing the discussing straight out of the opening of Pulp Fiction where Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer plan to rob the diner they’re eating in. The homage is executed beautifully that sets the tone for Mr. Wolf and Mr. Snakes relationship. These are bad individuals, and the entire city knows it while the other guests hide in the corners of the diner- shaking in their boots.
From there, The Bad Guys speed things up and never once takes its proverbial foot off the gas telling a complete story in 100 minutes. I guess in this case it would be a paw since Mr. Wolf is also a skilled driver – a nod to Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, perhaps? I’d say so.
The meat and potatoes of The Bad Guys focuses on the placed perception of bad guys – judging books by their covers, not fully understanding these individuals beyond what is seen on the surface. As soon as Mr. Wolf is called a good boy by inadvertently saving an old lady from falling, his entire purpose in life changes. It may feel good being bad but being good? that’s euphoria – his tail wags furiously as Mr. Wolf longs for more of that warm fuzzy feeling inside. While Mr. Wolf looks for loopholes in balancing being bad and good, others around him don’t trust he can fully change sides so easily. Good thing professor Rupert Marmalade IV (Voiced by Richard Ayoade) lends his services to assist with the transition – mostly against protest of the other members of the group and chief of police Misty Luggins (Voiced by Alex Borstein).
Is it just me or did Alex Borstein channel her anger toward Midge Maisel and funnel it to catching “The Bad Guys” by any means necessary?
What a time to be an anthropomorphic animal these days. With Sonic the Hedgehog tearing up perceptions of video game adaptations, The Bad Guys proves that just because you’re born bad and feared by the general population regularly, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t good within – all we must do as the outsider is give these bad guys a chance to grow and prove that they aren’t all bad all the time. For the younger audience that will sure be drawn to this story, the message is presented loud and clear, Perifel presents that message perfectly. As wee on the other side of the coin, not all who seem inherently good are so.
Generic of a story as it is, the message never becomes tiresome though done countless times before. Don’t trust a book by its cover – something adults need reminding of every so often. With a pleasing animation style, bright colors and lifelike character designs, The Bad Guys has an all-ages appeal to it. Led with a talented cast top to bottom that provide the laughs and more dense emotionally driven moments, The Bad Guys provide a good time at the movies – there is something for everyone to enjoy and relate to.
Only a fluffy onesie can make a deadly snake, a big bad wolf, a piranha, a tarantula and a great white shark seem so cuddly and inviting.
Written By: Etan Cohen
Directed By: Pierre Perifel
Music By: Daniel Pemberton
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Anthony Ramos, Craig Robinson, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Zazie Beetz, Lily Singh, Alex Borstein
Release Date: April 22, 2022
Running Time: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
My Score: 3.5 out of 5
Based On: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey