REVIEW: ‘The Bad Guys’ Is A Witty, Stylish Animated Heist Film

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The Bad Guys - But Why Tho

The Bad Guys is a Dreamworks Animation film directed by Pierre Perifel, based on the book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey. It follows the self-proclaimed “Bad Guys:” legendary thief  Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), his acerbic safecracking friend Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), genius hacker Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), master of disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), and the short-tempered muscle Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos). They’ve pulled off a string of successful heists, but when one gets out of hand and seemingly lands them in the slammer, the guinea pig philanthropist Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade) makes a deal: if the Bad Guys can prove that they’re able to do good, then their sentences will be lifted. The quintet struggles to break years of larcenous behavior, though in Wolf’s case he learns that he actually likes doing good.

The thing that stands out most about The Bad Guys is its animation style. Rather than utilizing a sleeker and more realistic animation that’s become the norm in animated films, the DWA Glendale animation team chooses to use a style that mixes elements of 2D and 3D animation. Characters have extremely expressive eyes, which feature 2D effects related to their moods; for example, when Snake’s tail is slammed into a briefcase, red rings of pain shoot through his pupils. This style of animation’s becoming more present thanks to the success of films like The Mitchells vs. The Machines and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and it looks like it’ll affect Dreamworks’ upcoming film Puss in Boots: The Last Boots. I for one welcome this new approach because it looks gorgeous.

The film also serves as a homage to heist films. Screenwriters Etan Cohen and Hilary Winston know all the tricks of the trade. A montage featuring The Bad Guys infiltrating a party is ripped right from Ocean’s 11. Wolf is even compared to George Clooney in one scene. There are double and even triple crosses in the vein of Reservoir Dogs. And of course, there’s a breakneck car chase or two, which is where the animation really shines. Fans of heist flicks may see the plot beats coming a mile away, but it’s still fun to watch how a quintet of anthropomorphic animals pulls it all off.

Like any good caper, The Bad Guys features a collection of talents that works best when paired together – and the ensemble of voice talent definitely bounces off of each other with ease. Rockwell voices Wolf as a slick, charming ne’er do-well; this pairs perfectly with Maron’s cutting snark as Snake. But perhaps the stand out is Ramos’ Piranha. He’s a tiny little ball of energy who zips around from scene to scene and keeps the film’s nearly breakneck momentum going. Ramos also gets the chance to show off his vocal skills in a sequence toward the end, which also features a lavish dance number. Fans of his performance in In The Heights will no doubt love this scene. The other standouts of the cast are Ayodade, whose voice is surprisingly soothing, and Zazie Beetz as Mayor Diane Foxington, who Wolf surprisingly strikes up a rapport with.

The Bad Guys packs plenty of wit into its story and style into its animation, resulting in a film that feels like the delightfully devious love child of Ocean’s 11 and Looney Tunes. It also proves that animation doesn’t have to be confined to a certain look or genre for the silver screen. If this film is successful, I hope that other studios will consider taking the same approach to their own animated projects. And with the book series being a major success, Dreamworks could easily have a new franchise on its hands.

The Bad Guys premieres in theaters nationwide on April 22, 2022.


The Bad Guys
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

The Bad Guys packs plenty of wit into its story and style into its animation, resulting in a film that feels like the delightfully devious love child of Ocean’s 11 and Looney Tunes. It also proves that animation doesn’t have to be confined to a certain look or genre for the silver screen. If this film is successful, I hope that other studios will consider taking the same approach to their own animated projects. And with the book series being a major success, Dreamworks could easily have a new franchise on its hands.