Written by Jack Ransom
It's been around 10 years or so since my last viewing of a DreamWorks feature, there’s a few of their films on my list but I have yet to get around to them. The Bad Guys however, quickly caught my attention with its standout cast, riotous energy that spilled out of the trailer and heist-centric premise of which I am a big fan of. Thankfully there is enough fun to be had here that will please both adults as well as its younger target audience.
DreamWorks’ newest animated feature, The Bad Guys follows notorious criminals Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson) and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina) are finally caught. To avoid a prison sentence, the animal outlaws must pull off their most challenging con yet -- becoming model citizens. Opening with a glorious homage to Pulp Fiction (that will fly over the heads of 99% of its audience), before charging head first into a very familiar yet fun tale of heists. It finds itself to be wholly predictable yet still good hearted morality arcs and an utterly bonkers (if unnecessary and ridiculous) villain plot that goes wild in the final act. At 100 minutes the film stretches its material just about as far as it can go here, as there is a couple of pacing problems and unnecessarily extended scenes (the “it’s a butt” gag and the inevitable sing and dance set piece, which admittedly isn’t too bad). The animation style is impressive and it cuts a unique visual flair. There is definitely traditional DreamWorks stylisation here, with a more modern influence seen in films such as Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs the Machines added on top. The film excels in the action department as well, with two belter chase sequences: the first simultaneously introducing the characters and the latter incorporating a pulsing Chemical Brothers tune to match its motorcycle heavy flow.
The film boasts a strong voice cast lineup. Sam Rockwell brings the suave, cunning and charming crime-con-mastermind traits to Wolf with ease. He is matched by Zazie Beetz’ witty and popular Mayor Diane Foxington who may or may not have her own rebellious streak. The rest of the crew featuring the standout Marc Maron as the grouchy Snake, alongside Awkwafina and Craig Davidson delivering their familiar schtick and Anthony Ramos going bonkers as Piranha. Lastly Richard Ayoade gets to up the smarm, overly sickly sweet and scenery chewing as Professor Marmalade. The Bad Guys is an easily watchable, energetic and fittingly chaotic enjoyable time. The characters are quickly likeable, the action and heist set pieces are fun and the positive message the film provides is good spirited. It may be very predictable in almost every narrative aspect and some of the child focused humour obviously will fall into irritation to older viewers (though that really is to be expected).