Genre: CG Animation
Director: Pierre Perifel
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade, Zazie Beetz, Lilly Singh, Alex Borstein
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 17 March 2022
Synopsis: Nobody has ever failed so hard at trying to be good as The Bad Guys. In the new action comedy from DreamWorks Animation, based on the New York Times best-selling book series, a crackerjack criminal crew of animal outlaws are about to attempt their most challenging con yet — becoming model citizens. Never have there been five friends as infamous as The Bad Guys — dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf ( Academy Award ® winner Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ), seen-it-all safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron, GLOW), chill master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson, Hot Tub Time Machine franchise), short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos, In the Heights) and sharp-tongued expert hacker Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians), aka “Webs.” But when, after years of countless heists and being the world’s most-wanted villains, the gang is finally caught, Mr. Wolf brokers a deal (that he has no intention of keeping) to save them all from prison: The Bad Guys will go good. Under the tutelage of their mentor Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade, Paddington 2), an arrogant (but adorable!) guinea pig, The Bad Guys set out to fool the world that they’ve been transformed. Along the way, though, Mr. Wolf begins to suspect that doing good for real may give him what he ’s always secretly longed for: acceptance. So when a new villain threatens the city, can Mr. Wolf persuade the rest of the gang to become ... The Good Guys?
They are the stuff of fairytales… except they’re on the wrong side of it. From the big bad wolf to the hungry shark, each of the characters in The Bad Guys is exactly that - the villain of every story they’ve been in. So the question begs, is this nature or nurture?
Pierre Perifel doesn’t reinvent the wheel here. He directs the animated adaptation of Aaron Blabey’s children books (of the same name) with a pleasing but predictable plot, with enough moments to keep viewers satisfied. It’s not exactly the refreshing take it was made out to be in their early proposals, but it does have a few imaginative executions, like its mix of animation styles.
There’s spots of classic 2D illustrative elements mixed in with lush 3D material renders, and the colourful world is nicely realised with some character, even if bits of it seems rehashed from earlier productions. I’ll make no bones about it and say it is stylistically mediocre, but there’s enough cohesion and frills here to escape into, with a humour that mostly sits better with a younger crowd.
Our anthropomorphic troop is made up of Mr. Wolf, his right-hand reptile Mr. Snake, Mr. Shark, Mr. Piranha, and Ms. Tarantula. They’re pegged as expert criminals - each with their own niche - and conduct heist after heist to keep the good citizens and the police in the town busy. And while they take pride in their work, there’s also the case that that’s all they’ve ever known.
When governor Diane Foxington profiles them as a deadbeat group, Wolf takes on the challenge of stealing the Golden Dolphin as a trophy heist. One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, the model citizen that is guinea pig, Professor Marmalade, persuades the town to give the outlaws a chance to become good. Needless to say, this is not a straightforward affair.
There’s twists in there that won’t exactly drop jaws, but also some sequences that provide joy to the revelations, and this balance is appreciated from feature first-timer Perifel. More grit would have been good for this writer, because the message of trying to do good is a worthy one, nicely handled in some of the conversations between Diane and Wolf. And even though the characters get nudged into this consideration, the development feels far too contrived for a matter this deep.
The audience will enjoy the voice acting from the likes of Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron and Zazie Beetz, but will most noticeably recognise that of Awkwafina’s, who has the role of the spider. Their portrayal is as good as it gets, if only hampered by the formulaic writing and some old jokes.
This band of criminals finding their conscience is enjoyable enough but could have been so much more if the writers focused more on the transition and motivations, rather than on small slapstick sequences. But thanks to an even hand and pleasant visuals, The Bad Guys should make for a good school holiday film for the family to enjoy.
(Breezy animated effort that could benefit from a richer investigation into what makes for a good or bad person)
Review by Morgan Awyong