Review: The Bad Guys

Dreamworks reportedly hopes to develop this animated feature into a franchise, but so much of it is pastiche that it might be difficult to pass off as original. The premise is that the heroes are not only “bad guys” in movie parlance, but animals that tend to have a negative image in real life: snakes, piranha, tarantulas, sharks. The head of this motley crew of criminals is a wolf voiced by Sam Rockwell at his sleaziest, and while wolves have generally been rehabilitated in recent decades through the services of environmental groups (as have sharks, even though they still kill people), the movie appropriates the old Hollywood cliche of wolves, meaning guys on the make, especially when it comes to their approach to women. 

The other element that makes the movie more generic than distinctive is that it’s a heist movie whose particulars about the job in question seem to have been cribbed from every other heist movie, in particular the Soderbergh “Oceans” series. George Clooney is even mentioned by name, as if two cinematic universes had passed each other in the night. There are car chases and evil geniuses and corruptible politicians, but all these different aspects are more or less thrown into a stew of jokes and pop cultural asides that stall the plot’s forward momentum. The object of larceny is a bank and the mechanizations of the steal get buried under all this comedic business and sideways moves for the sake of romantic intrigue: Wolf “makes love” to the state governor, a fox (Zazie Beetz), whom, naturally, he ends up really falling in love with, though his original purpose was to distract her. The villain, of course, isn’t Wolf or his team of fanged, clawed accomplices, but rather a guinea pig (Richard Ayoade) named, of all things, Professor Marmalade. (Where’s Paddington when you need him?) It’s not spoiling anything to say that the “crooks” end up looking like the good guys because they fight the real “evil” in the world. One for all and all for one, though the “one” in this case would seem to be the franchise.

Subtitled version opens Oct. 7 in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills ((050-6868-5024).

The Bad Guys home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2021 Dreamworks Animation LLC

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