Dreamworks Animation has changed its image so much that it’s gotten to the point where I was dumbfounded when I saw that ‘The Bad Guys’ was in fact, a project of theirs. With most of their recent movies being noticeably targeted heavily towards children instead of families, the company lost a bit of that instant recognition and popularity. Projects like ‘The Boss Baby’ and ‘Trolls‘ franchises have been most of the source of content in the past few years and considering this is the same company that gave us franchises like ‘Shrek’, ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda’, it’s a bit disappointing, to say the least. That being said after a few hiccups quality-wise, it seems like Dreamworks Animation is finally on the right track again as ‘The Bad Guys’ is one of their funniest and most charming entries to date taking that classic Dreamworks heart and humour and mixing it up with a snazzy new animation style that works wonders.
there are no spoilers for ‘The Bad Guys’ featured in this review.
Now, I am a huge supporter of animation, I’ve said it many times that it is actually my preferred medium but even I have to say that this was not a movie I was expecting to love and I don’t think anyone really did. It’s the new Dreamworks Animation movie with the anthropomorphic animals, you might have seen the horrid trailers play before a movie. So I understand if you didn’t plan on watching it but now having seen it, I’m gonna recommend it to literally everyone I know. ‘The Bad Guys’ is easily Dreamworks Animation’s best movie since the last ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. It is an incredibly fast-paced and entertaining hour and a half that just goes by in a flash. As the opening scene starts to unfold, you are immediately met with some truly fantastic animation, witty dialogue and some endearing and charming marvelous character designs. The opening heist and chase sequence was such a joy to watch. It had the slick movement of a ‘Lupin the 3rd’ movie while also being slightly influenced by other classic anime in how the eyes were animated. The original ‘Dragon Ball’ was confirmed as an inspiration and it shows. The influence I personally saw in this opening scene was from this old animated French show from the early 2000s called ‘Funky Cops’ which revolved around two cops in the 1970s cruising around a sun-kissed San Francisco solving crime. Only in ‘The Bad Guys’, it’s modern Los Angeles and instead of two cops, it’s a group of anthropomorphic animals causing crime and going on heists. Truth be told, I fell in love with this movie almost instantly, the moment I saw the opening animation of Wolf on the Dreamworks moon, it just clicked for me and this fabulous opening sequence definitely aided that first impression. In a world post-‘Into the Spider-Verse’, it has been a tremendous joy seeing more mainstream animated movies break from the mold and follow in that movie’s freeing footsteps and ‘The Bad Guys’ is no exception.
As someone who has yet to see ‘Oceans 11’, this came across as a mix between ‘Zootopia‘ and hints of ‘Cowboy Bebop’ more than anything else. In fact, it shares some striking resemblance to ‘Zootopia‘ in both its allegory and also in the fact that both revolve around anthropomorphic animals exploiting their stereotypes to become rich only to befriend someone like them who changes their mind. There is even a twist villain which to be completely honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of although to be fair the movie doesn’t rely too heavily on their presence to continue the plot. That being said ‘The Bad Guys’ is still very much its own thing. From its humour to its animation style and even the surprisingly thrilling action sequences, this is a movie that knows exactly what it is and amps it to an eleven. The humour was so genuinely funny, there’s just something so hilarious to me about a shark whose expertise is disguise and it actually works every single time. There’s even this great interaction where Wolf enters a high profile event which The Bad Guys are obviously banned from and through his disguise, he fools Officer Misty who even goes on to apologise to him. It’s subtle moments like this which elevate the movie in my opinion. Even while watching this, I was thinking to myself how much of an animator’s movie this is. how much fun making this could’ve been. You can tell that everyone had a blast making this movie, there is so much style and personality interwoven from the little facial expressions of the characters to the fantastic voice-cast who brings these characters to life in an enthusiastically energetic fashion. The entire voice-cast is great but Sam Rockwell (Mr Wolf), Marc Maron (Mr Snake) and Alex Borstein (Officer Misty) do stand out quite a bit, especially since the character design, facial animation and voice-performance work in tandem so perfectly that their characters are just the most entertaining out of the bunch. That being said, the rest of the cast also had their shining moments as well.
It cannot go without being said that while ‘The Bad Guys’ can certainly be enjoyed by children, the marketing campaign was so bland in the way that it didn’t even try to market itself as anything other than an hour and a half distraction for very young children. I’m not even going to talk about how they used ‘bad guy’ by Billie Eilish in the trailers to try to be appealing to children but then you watch the movie and they never use it once but actually use fitting songs for an animated heist movie but I get it, the names almost match so they had to seize that opportunity. To be completely honest, for the longest time, I confused this movie with another animated animal movie called ‘Back To The Outback’ and it’s from Netflix and it’s more or less the same product, without the gorgeous animation and stellar voice-cast. My point is that this is a Dreamworks Animation product and they sold it like a Nickelodeon pilot. It wasn’t noticeably successful at the box office and it’s already available to purchase on-demand. The only people talking about this movie are animation fans and it’s actually quite sad because had this been marketed as this genuinely funny and exciting family movie, it would’ve probably done better.
Overall, I cannot recommend ‘The Bad Guys’ enough, this movie goes by in a flash thanks to not only some very fast pacing but also the insanely energetic animation which is undeniably the highlight of this movie. While the story itself isn’t anything to write home about, the endearing characters, humour and surprisingly thrilling action sequences more than make up for it, especially when they look that good. With this movie and the upcoming ‘Puss In Boots: The Last Wish’, it truly feels like Dreamworks Animation is ready to start a new and exciting chapter for itself, one that regains its impressive reputation in the animation industry. Please go support this wonderful movie!
‘The Bad Guys’ is still showing in select theatres. It is also available for purchase on-demand.