Classic cartoon capers and Tarantino-esque heists don’t seem like two things that would mix very well. Yet they go together like crime and justice in the new Dreamworks animated movie The Bad Guys. Directed by Pierre Perifel, and based on Aaron Blabey’s children’s book series of the same name, the film tells the story of Mr Wolf (Sam Rockwell).
Wolf is an out and out bad guy who enjoys nothing more than striking fear in the people of Los Angeles, pulling off audacious heist after audacious heist with his crew of rogues. The gang’s made up of Mr Snake (Marc Maron), Mr Shark (Craig Robinson), Mr Piranha (Anthony Ramos), and Ms Turantula (Awkwafina), each member of the crew has their own unique skill and is utterly dedicated to the art of crime.
When a new governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), gets under Wolf’s skin, though, by calling the team ‘has beens’, the Bad Guys try and pull off one last job. Unfortunately, things don’t go to plan, and the gange gets caught. Faced with prison the gang agree to try and reform under the guidance of LA’s goodest guy Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade). Can the Bad Guys go straight, or are they really bad to the bone? Well, you’ll have to watch the film to find out.
We can say, though, that you won’t be disappointed if you go and watch it. The Bad Guys manages to deliver the one-two punch of a quality story and even more impressive animation. At its heart, The Bad Guys is basically Ocean’s 11 for kids with every heist movie trope and cliche thrown in, along with the kitchen sink, for good measure.
This isn’t a bad thing, though. The Bad Guys is ultimately a kids movie, after all, so we can forgive it for being a bit indulgent. It helps that it’s a very funny parody of heist movies made by people who clearly love the genre.
As such, all the winks and nods to the likes of Tarantino and Soderbergh seem less like a box-ticking exercise and more like a loving tribute to the masters of the genre. It was fun spotting all the references to different thriller movies, and I was impressed by the film’s ability to parody the outlandish nature of big heist films without being mean-spirited about the genre.
While the twists and turns of the heist are great fun, the script’s real strength is in its main characters. The titular crew are all great fun with distinct personalities, abilities, and relationships. While Rockwell’s probably going to be most people’s favourite, the real best character (i.e. my favourite) is Snake; he’s just such a lovable jerk, constantly moaning and sniping, but you know he’s a softy underneath.
I was impressed with all of the voice acting. Most of the cast are known for their live-action acting, not their voice work. Sometimes the decision to cast celebs in animated films can be distracting; however, here, it works most notably in the case of Rockwell, who’s literally channelling George Clooney at one point in the film.
While I liked the Bad Guys’ fun and frantic story, the thing that really worked for me was the animation. There was a slightly creatively bankrupt period in animation history where almost every computer-animated movie looked almost exactly the same.
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We seem to be moving past it with films like The Mitchells Versus The Machines, Turning Red, and Spider-Verse pushing the envelope of what we think a western animated movie should look like, but the movement has been glacially slow. I was delighted then to see the incredible amount of effort that had gone into making The Bad Guys look different.
While it’s still recognisably a Dreamworks movie, it’s clearly influenced by other art styles like anime and traditional cartoons. As such the film has a really unique look that seems to blend traditional 2D animation with more modern techniques. As a result, The Bad Guys looks cool, for lack of a better word.
Lively and entertaining, The Bad Guys is a crime movie that kids and adults will enjoy.
The Bad Guys review
A love letter to classic crime capers this animated movie stole my heart