The Bad Guys Review

This is a film that I didn’t really know anything about going in. I hadn’t really heard of the book series this was based on and hadn’t seen any of the trailers. I did hear some positive reviews for the film so I decided to give it a chance and I’m glad I did. I ended up being really pleasantly surprised by this film.

The film takes place in a world with anthropomorphic animals and follows a gang of thieves, Mr Wolf, Mr Snake, Mr Shark, Ms Tarantula and Mr Piranha. After a heist of theirs goes wrong and they end up getting caught, the only way for them to avoid prison is to show themselves as willing to reform, pretending to do so for philanthropist Professor Marmalade, in order to earn a pardon from Governor Diane Foxington. However, it soon becomes clear that some in the group, mainly Mr Wolf, actually are thinking of going good. Now the film itself isn’t very original. The general idea of reforming heroes has been explored in things like Megamind and the Despicable Me series, and there are a few plot points which are pretty easy to predict. The difference here though is in how the film is presented. In other films like Megamind and Despicable Me, there is usually an external person who is the focus of the desire to be good. Here though, being good is presented as being the reward in and of itself, not forming a relationship with another person. I also found the heist film structure to be well executed, ensuring that there is a good sense of tension throughout the film and helps to give this film its own charm. There are also interesting ideas at play over the expectations vs reality of the way the main characters are viewed. As they are expected to be villainous, with most people scared of them, they do fall into the image that is projected upon them, and there is an interesting dynamic of whether this dynamic can be broken.

The performances throughout the film are pretty strong. Sam Rockwell has the right level of charm for Mr Wolf, having the right mix of smarmy and conniving for the character, whilst also making the turn towards good feel believable. Marc Maron does well as Mr Snake, being a more cynical presence throughout the film, along with having good chemistry with Rockwell to sell the dynamic between their characters, and he works well in selling how the character develops throughout the film. Craig Robinson, Awkwafina and Anthony Ramos work well in their parts as Mr Shark, Ms Tarantula and Mr Piranha, working well off of each other, Rockwell and Maron in selling the friendship they all have, although they do feel a bit underdeveloped. You know exactly what you are getting when Richard Ayoade is cast in a film like this and he is a fun presence throughout the film as Professor Marmalade, having more of a self-agrandising feel that works well for the character. Zazie Beets is okay in the film, having decent chemistry with Rockwell and doing a decent job with how Governor Foxington acts, but she is a more notably example of someone being cast more for name value, not really bringing anything to the role to stand out. There are some good comedy bits with Alex Bornstein, but the animation is what makes the character stand out more rather than the performance.

The animation in the film is excellent throughout. I’ve loved the trend in the past few years of more stylisation in American animation, moving away from photorealism and being more artistically bold. Here, there’s a good mix of 3D animation for the characters and 2D animation for effects and things like eye movements and shadows. This helps to give the film a unique visual style and helps with making the action scenes fast paced and engaging, especially during the car chases. Having a look at some of the illustrations in the books, the art style of the film does a good job of capturing this look.

Overall, I ended up having a lot of fun with The Bad Guys. Sure there are some bits which are predictable but on the whole this is a fun, smartly written film, buoyed by a solid central performance from Sam Rockwell and very impressive animation.

My Rating: 4/5

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