Directed by: Pierre Perifel
Premise: An animated film. In a city inhabited by human begins and anthropomorphic animals, a crew of criminals are caught mid-burglary. Instead of going to prison, the team opts to reform from bad guys into good guys.
What Works: The Bad Guys is a DreamWorks Animation production and the studio’s output has a distinct look seen in Shrek and Kung-Fu Panda. The Bad Guys is distinguished by its unique visual style. The animation has a distinct visual texture and the filmmakers borrow elements from other techniques, including manga, and synthesize them into a single coherent style. The film unfolds with high energy and a fast and sometimes frantic speed and it’s consistently funny. But The Bad Guys works primarily as a story of a group of friends. The movie and the troupe of thieves are led by Wolf (voice of Sam Rockwell), a criminal canine who wants to go straight and tells his friends that their new image is just a diversion for the next job. Wolf’s cohorts are reluctant, especially Snake (voice of Mark Maron), who doubles down on his villainy but is really afraid of losing his friends. The relationship between Wolf and Snake gives The Bad Guys emotional stakes and the film manages to do something complex within the framework of an animated family film. The story dramatizes nuanced ideas about who we are, the capacity of individuals to change, and the way stereotypes can be misleading.
What Doesn’t: The filmmakers undercut the storytelling in the end. The relationship between Wolf and Snake reaches a crisis point but the moviemakers take an easy way out that cheapens the personal conflict. The world of The Bad Guys is not well considered. The film takes place in a city that’s mostly inhabited by human beings and appears normal but all the main characters are talking animals. Meanwhile, the film is also filled with other animals that are not anthropomorphized including some animals that are the same species as the speaking characters. Unlike Zootopia or BoJack Horseman, there’s no internal logic to the story world and it comes across as lazy writing. The humor of The Bad Guys is consistently funny but the filmmakers rely a lot on flatulence jokes. A running gag usually reoccurs in a way that becomes absurd but the fart jokes of The Bad Guys are just repetitive.
Bottom Line: The Bad Guys is a mostly average but satisfying animated feature. The movie is made with enough humor and energy to compensate for its narrative shortcomings.
Episode: #900 (May 8, 2022)