To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, The Bad Guys is an animated crime comedy film directed by Pierre Perifel (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Etan Cohen (Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa). Featuring the voices of Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Anthony Ramos, Craig Robinson, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Zazie Beetz, Lilly Singh, and Alex Borstein. Loosely based on the children’s book series of the same name, the story follows a group of criminals who attempt to earn a second chance by reforming themselves as model citizens. The leader of the gang, Mr. Wolf, genuinely likes being seen as a “good guy” which puts him at odds with the rest of his crew.
At a diner, Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell) and Mr. Snake (Marc Maron) enjoy a meal together. They discuss life, favorite foods, and the fact that it’s Mr. Snakes’ birthday. Mr. Wolf wants to give him a party with a cake, but Mr. Snake doesn’t care that it is his birthday and would rather not celebrate. As they leave, the entire diner is afraid of them forcing them to leave their money on the counter.
As they exit the dinner they enter a bank across the street and proceed to rob it. They end up in a car chase with the police picking up other members of their crew along the way. Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson) is the master of disguise, Ms. Tarantula aka Webs (Awkwafina) is the hacker, and Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos) is the muscle. They give Mr. Snake a cake and sing Happy Birthday to him while evading the police. They arrive at their hideout and celebrate another successful caper.
DreamWorks Animation has mostly played second fiddle to Pixar and Disney Animation, with only a few of their films gaining more popularity like the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda series. DreamWorks however, does something those studios don’t – adapt modern children’s stories, like How to Train Your Dragon. Pixar prefers to make original content while Disney animation usually adapts older fairy tales. The Bad Guys is loosely based on an illustrated children’s graphic novel series by Australian author Aaron Blabey. From the start, they have an audience for this feature as whichever kids read the series will be interested in watching this adaptation.
The movie’s title is a bit on the nose as the animals that make up this gang are usually written as bad or evil in films. You have the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, the great white shark in Jaws, spiders in Arachnophobia, snakes in Anaconda, and piranhas in Piranha 3D. This is great as they use this trope to teach a lesson about people becoming what they are perceived as. If people perceive you as bad then you might as well give them what they expect. Almost exactly the same lesson is taught in another animal-based film, Zootopia – because Hollywood lacks originality.
The animation is appealing as well. Currently, most kids’ media is computer-animated as opposed to traditionally animated. DreamWorks looks to be adding some cel-shading to their 3D renders to further distinguish their work from other studios. This new style seen in The Bad Guys can also be spotted in the teaser for the upcoming Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Also, you can see a resemblance between the real-life actors and their animated counterparts, even if only slightly.
This is also a world where anthropomorphic animals live side by side with humans. This makes sense until we see Professor Rupert Marmalade IV (Richard Ayoade) who is an anthropomorphic guinea pig, but there are also normal guinea pigs running about. It’s easy to chalk this inconsistency up to kid’s movies not having to make perfect sense as long as it’s appealing to their target audience, but adults are usually watching too so studios should keep that in mind. This doesn’t mean there isn’t humor adults can enjoy. The diner scene is an homage to Pulp Fiction, the names of the gang (and their respective color-themed species) are an homage to Reservoir Dogs, and the caper planning narration is an homage to the Ocean’s film series. Two out of three of those films should not be seen by a child even if they are with a parent.
While it’s not the best DreamWorks Animation has to offer, I do enjoy seeing the subtle changes they are making to set their films apart from the competition. I give The Bad Guys a Solid 6/10. With as many books as there are in this series, I’m sure a sequel or television spin-off will be announced soon.