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The Bad Guys Review

April 22, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Bad Guys Photo Still Image Credit: DreamWorks Animation
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The Bad Guys Review  

Directed By: Pierre Perifel
Written By: Etan Cohen; Based on the books by Aaron Blabey
Runtime: 100 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG for action and rude humor

Sam Rockwell – Wolf
Marc Maron – Snake
Awkwafina – Tarantula
Craig Robinson – Shark
Anthony Ramos – Piranha
Richard Ayoade – Professor Marmalade
Zazie Beetz – Diane Foxington
Lilly Singh – Tiffany Fluffit
Alex Borstein – Police Chief Misty Luggins

A group of notorious criminals tries to turn over a new leaf in the new DreamWorks Animation comedy, The Bad Guys. While DreamWorks Animation is not the powerhouse it was 20 years ago in the days of Shrek, the studio still managed to create something fun and entertaining with this new kid-centric, family comedy.

The eponymous Bad Guys are a crew of infamous thieves. Each serves a particular role in their daring heists. Wolf (Rockwell) is their leader, strategist, and getaway driver. Tarantula (Awkwafina) is the tech expert. Shark (Robinson) is the master of disguise and undercover expert. Piranha (Ramos) is the muscle, and Snake (Maron) helps with the fieldwork.

The crew’s exploits are challenged by the presence of the new Governor, Diane Foxington (Beetz), who incites the Bad Guys to pull off their most daring feat yet by stealing The Golden Dolphin statuette, which is being awarded to the good Samaritan guinea pig, Professor Marmalade (Ayoade), for his charitable work in the city. However, the heist gets foiled when Wolf inadvertently performs a good deed by helping an old lady and realizes that helping others feels good.

Before the Bad Guys are sent to prison for good, Wolf hatches a plan by pleading their case to get a second chance to become good and receive a pardon from Governor Foxington. So, they are released into the care of Dr. Marmalade to train them to find their better selves. Wolf convinces the crew that the act is an elaborate charade to stay out of incarceration and steal the Golden Dolphin. Yet he cannot escape the realization that he enjoys helping others rather than committing crimes.

Longtime DWA animator Pierre Perifel makes his feature directorial debut here. He displays a strong sense of visual storytelling and style. What works The Bad Guys‘ favor is that it does not look like an average, cookie-cutter CG-animated feature. The characters have eyes and facial features that look hand-drawn over the computer-generated models. The more two-dimensional facial features on top of the CG character models are incredibly effective. As a result, the characters look more expressive and livelier.

The film utilizes vivid lighting arrangements that are not usually seen in animated features. The action scenes feature dynamic cinematography, with kinetic camera work. The Bad Guys has a unique, energetic flair that is very entertaining to watch. When the action ramps up, it looks impressive with remarkable fluidity.

Family movies such as this often try to sneak in material and dialogue to keep the adults mildly entertained while the kids are having fun. There is some of that at play with The Bad Guys, but the script often has trouble mixing and juggling those different voices.

In one scene, characters appear to be riffing on Quentin Tarantino’s rhythmic dialogue and banter. In other scenes, it plays like the characters are talking down to children and slowing down to make sure every kid in the audience can understand what is going on, so they are learning the film’s moral lessons. At times, The Bad Guys plays its concepts so broadly that the story no longer feels like it’s naturally unfolding. In these moments, the story is less immersive.

The world of The Bad Guys features anthropomorphized, sentient, intelligent animals who also live among humans. There are regular unintelligent animals as well. So, the premise is different than that of Zootopia or Sing. The world of the film is not a society of human-like animals living in place of humans. It’s somewhat closer to the world of Bojack Horseman, but with a PG rating. There are intelligent, talking animal characters that walk around and live among humans. They wear clothes, and that’s it. The film doesn’t delve too hard into the concept. That’s for the best.

The voice cast does great work with their characters, especially Sam Rockwell, who is the emotional heart of the narrative. Rockwell’s smooth-talking, deep voice for Wolf is perfect for capturing the visual cadence of a career con artist who discovers that it is not so bad to be good.

All the Bad Guy cast members play their roles well, but besides Rockwell, the standout is Craig Robinson as Shark. Richard Ayoade and his impeccable talents are always welcome as Professor Marmalade. Zazie Beets also does some standout work here as Governor Foxington. Foxington provides several scene-stealing moments, and Beets provides a memorable vocal performance. She even does well in selling some rather clunky, hackneyed dialogue.

One lost opportunity is the idea of the Bad Guys trying and failing to do good things. This subplot could have been explored further before departing from it. The film also presents the idea that the Bad Guys are society’s outcasts, so they portray the role society sees in them. People hate and fear sharks, snakes, spiders, and wolves, so they frighten and rob people in response. The film only hints at the sadness these characters could be feeling. The Bad Guys would have benefitted from showcasing emotions which would make the story more emotional and touching.

Regardless, The Bad Guys is a fun animated adventure. It’s one of DreamWorks Animation’s better offerings in a while.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Bad Guys is an entertaining animated family film. The animation style looks stunning and unique. Pierre Perifel imbues the film with visual panache and energy. At times, the film is tonally uneven with its mix of a more sophisticated style and adult voice, with writing and dialogue that often plays far too broad, rudimentary, and superficial. The Bad Guys can be very goofy and silly, but it's still fun. Kids will enjoy this film, and there will likely be things for adults to enjoy with the heist film premise and Tarantino callbacks.