“The Bad Guys” is directed by Pierre Perifel, who has helped animate several DreamWorks films including “Monsters vs. Aliens,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Rise of the Guardians.” This film stars Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Moon), Marc Maron (GLOW, Joker), Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens), Craig Robinson (The Cleveland Show, The Office), Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, In the Heights), Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, The Watch), Zazie Beatz (Atlanta, Deadpool 2), Alex Borstein (Family Guy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), and Lilly Singh (A Little Late with Lilly Singh, Bad Moms). This film is based on a children’s graphic novel series by Aaron Blabey and follows a group of varying creatures who all commit crimes together. In an attempt to successfully continue their criminal activities and complete their mission, they attempt to become “good,” which given their long status of being hated or feared, is a bit of challenge on a number of ends.
I first saw a trailer for “The Bad Guys” back towards the tail end of 2021, and I thought it looked like another example of why people often stereotype animated movies as “kid movies,” because this movie did not look like it was made for me. Maybe if I were eight, I would have been sold. Not today. That said, I did go see this film given how there was a free screening for it over Easter weekend. So I did have time to watch it. But I cannot say I had the motivation.
Now, I want to make something clear, one of my least favorite critiques regarding family films is that the movie at hand is dumb, there are moments that do not add up, but “the kids will like it.” While that MAY be true, I also want to note that as I look back on my childhood, there are select movies that I STILL watch to this day that were intended for the family demographic because of how they have treated me like I was intelligent back then and continue to do so today. Pixar is honestly the king of this classification with films like “The Incredibles” and “Up.” I will add that “Lightyear” looks like it is going to continue that tradition when it releases in June. There are a few DreamWorks films from my childhood like “Kung Fu Panda” or “How to Train Your Dragon” that manage to maintain a childlike spirit but I also would not mind popping in again as an adult if I get the chance. Although I will say I have probably watched “Bee Movie” more than some would like to admit as a kid and have not done so since I was 13. Even for the memes. “The Bad Guys” came off as a disposable family film with cheap comedy gags. I did not think I would particularly like it.
Now that I have seen the film, it is kind of that… Except that I did walk out thinking that I saw something that technically qualified as… Well, good!
In addition to some cheap comedy attempts that the trailer seems to promise, there are some hints of cleverness in between. This movie has one of the funniest lines I have heard from a children’s film in recent memory. I won’t quote it verbatim, but one of the best moments of the film is when we see the Big Bad Wolf and Mr. Snake talking to each other, when all of sudden, Snake spits out a clock, and reminds Wolf of the time, saying that it is “the moment our friendship died.” I imagine this was written as a throwaway line, but for some reason it just hit me the right way.
The voice cast is actually rather impressive from Sam Rockwell as Wolf, Marc Maron as Snake, Awkwafina as Tarantula… Yeah, some of these names are QUITE generic… But ya know. It is not entirely the movie’s fault. It is based on a book. If anything, blame the book. I dunno… But still, generic names! Either way, each actor finds a way to swimmingly match their voice to each role. I almost cannot see anyone else voicing Wolf at this point. The only other voice I could see is maybe Matthew McConaughey, but given how he’s already got a major role in “Sing” and a bit of an accent, I think that Rockwell is a better choice. Awkwafina has a swagger to her voice that is perfectly sprinkled into her role of Tarantula, and to my surprise, Craig Robinson had an over the top attitude to the character of Shark that was finely executed. Anthony Ramos mixed okay with his character of Piranha, but I think he is an element of the film that relies on tired gags maybe a little too much.
My favorite voices of the film come from characters who are not quite in the forefront. First off, we have an over the top police chief who goes by the name Misty Luggins. Her aspirations are to capture the Bad Guys for good. As the movie progresses she becomes funnier and funnier, her one-dimensionality is honestly her strength. If anything, she kind of reminded me of the old lady from the “Madagascar” movies who refers to Alex the Lion as a “bad kitty,” only in this case, Luggins seems a tad more civilized. She just seems so passionate about reaching her goals, and even though she technically was on what this movie refers to as its antagonistic side, part of me could not help but root for her. I was also delighted to find out that she was voiced by Alex Borstein of “Family Guy” fame.
Also joining the cast is British comedian Richard Ayoade, who in this film plays a character by the name of Professor Marmalade. I love this character. Professor Marmalade is pretty much everything that the Bad Guys are not. While the Bad Guys are busy hacking, robbing, taking from innocent people, Marmalade on the other hand is quite benevolent, rather charitable. He has a history of guinea pig philanthropy and every moment of his presence is one to savor. Ayoade is perfect casting for this role because of the pure distinctness of his voice that has the right amount of innocence, kindness, possibly even geekiness. At first I thought this was Daniel Radcliffe, because when I first heard Professor Marmalade talk I was getting Harry Potter vibes. But I heard his voice more and more, and one, recognized it, and two, adored it. If Sam Rockwell was solid casting for Wolf, then Richard Ayoade is gargantuanly perfect casting for Professor Marmalade. Two thumbs up.
“The Bad Guys” is a well-voiced, not to mention well-animated little film. This film has a distinct, quick, almost comic book-like style that works for it. That said, here is my big problem. Humans.
Humans are a problem. War, global warming, lust, capitalism. Humans are a disaster and I have no problem in saying that. Humans are not perfect, and speaking of imperfections, there are so many humans in this film that it makes me, the Movie Reviewing Moron, wonder… HOW ARE THESE BAD GUYS GETTING AWAY WITH ALL THIS STUFF?!
Genuine question. How many sharks are there in this universe? Also, how many of them speak English?! This movie establishes that Mr. Shark is a master of disguise. How on earth do more people not catch him committing crimes or pulling off heists? I don’t buy any of this! This universe almost establishes that these talking animals are almost one of a kind. I would like to know how they continue to blend in a world that is implied to be dominated by humans, kind of like ours. Yeah, there are other creatures too, but they supposedly are few and far between unless maybe you’re a guinea pig. I think if you want a more practical universe, I would not say to take the humans out entirely. But maybe replace some of the ordinary citizens with other animal types. Maybe apes or tigers or cheetahs. If this movie looked something more like “Zootopia” or “Sing,” I’d buy it more. But it’s less believable because it sort of traces back to our reality despite some slight changes here and there.
This goes back to what I said about kids movies treating its audience like they’re intelligent. Now, I am in my 20s, so therefore I do not have the brain of a child, even though I do admittedly sometimes act like one. But the movie still entertained me despite its noticeable flaws, therefore even though I think this is something that should have been fixed before release, it does not exactly take away from the fun I had watching this movie. I get why they made the main characters different creatures. It helps by highlighting their distinctiveness, and may make the movie more attractive and marketable for younger viewers. But if you are gonna go this way, you might as well go all the way. Keep all of the main creatures as they are, but add a few other altering creatures into the background for a change. Just a suggestion. It’s a pretty big suggestion, not afraid to admit it, but nevertheless. Say what you want about all these superhero movies from Marvel and DC having characters with impractical abilities. Here’s the thing about Spider-Man. Let’s use Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man as an example. Sure, maybe in reality there is no one out there that can shoot webs out of their wrists. But the movie’s environment, vibe, characters, actions, everything within that first “Spider-Man” movie from 2002 felt like it was carefully constructed to make me believe that a teenager could live a life swinging around New York City. “The Bad Guys” fails on that goal because of the characters and environment that surround the ones in the title. Am I nitpicking? You could make the argument that I am. But I only say this because I have to be honest in my thoughts and remind those who I am sharing my thoughts with that I am trying to help. I am making suggestions based on my experience. That said, I liked the movie. I’d still give it a watch.
In the end, “The Bad Guys” is a good time even though I have a tendency to rip it apart somewhat. Would I want a sequel to this movie? I don’t think so, but I think this a fine hour and a half to turn off your brain, or if you are me, almost turn off your brain. This is not going to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, in fact I think if you want a better family movie to watch with the kids, “Turning Red” would be better for certain audiences. I think if you have younger kids “The Bad Guys” might be better, but it’s not a better movie. But as an adult, I DID laugh quite a bit, and I clapped at the end. There’s also some cool action, look forward to it if that’s your thing. I’m going to give “The Bad Guys” a somewhat generous 6/10.
“The Bad Guys” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! I’ve got a few reviews coming soon between “The Northman,” “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Look forward to those! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Bad Guys?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you enjoyed as a kid that does not hold up as an adult? For me, that would have to be the live-action “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films. What about you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!