A wolf, a snake, a shark, a tarantula, a shark and a piranha walk into a bank. What happens next?
Well, if your first thought is, ‘Wait, snakes can’t walk, and aren’t sharks and piranhas fish?’, then this probably isn’t your type of movie.
But if you enjoy a good old fashion no holds barred, action- and laugh-packed animated feature, then The Bad Guys will do you good.
Based loosely on a best-selling children’s book series by author Aaron Blabey, the titular bad guys are five animals that are traditionally stereotyped as ‘bad’.
Heading the gang is master thief Mr Wolf (Sam Rockwell). As he points out, wolves are usually the villain in so many stories, from The Red Riding Hood to The Three Little Pigs, so he might as well embrace the stereotype and be the Big Bad Wolf that everyone thinks he is.
His gang includes four other 'bad' animals – wise-cracking safe cracker Mr Snake (Marc Maron), master of disguise Mr Shark (Craig Robinson), the gang’s tough fighting muscle Mr Piranha (Anthony Ramos) and master hacker Ms Tarantula (Awkwafina).
Calling themselves ‘The Bad Guys’, they use the public’s perception of them as perennial villains as an excuse to commit crimes and wreak havoc.
But when a heist goes wrong, Wolf hatches a plan to get them out of trouble by pretending to want to turn good, with the help of rich guinea pig philanthropist Professor Rupert Marmalade IV (Richard Ayoade) and Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), the city’s governor. However, things start to get weird for Wolf and his team when they actually start to feel good about being good guys...
With movies like Encanto, Turning Red, The Mitchells Vs The Machines, Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse and other animated features consistently pushing the envelope and finding new ways to tell familiar stories these days, it’s no longer enough to just include some cute fuzzy animal characters or chuck a few A-list actors together to crack a few jokes in the voice booth (I’m looking at you, Hotel Transylvania).
The Bad Guys just manage to stand out in a crowded pool by being stupidly entertaining and incredibly fun. It's sort of like a kid’s version of Ocean’s Eleven (one character even name-drops George Clooney), with an energetic visual style, some decent action (that car chase in the beginning is more fun than what any of the Fast & The Furious movies ever managed), snappy dialogue and voice acting, and complete disregard for anything resembling logic or common sense (Come on, where else can you watch a shark who is a master of disguise?).
Sure, there have been movies and stories about bad guys who turn good before. Heck, Wreck-It Ralph already did pretty well ten years ago. Though this particular version doesn’t stray far from the usual formula of revelation, betrayal, false accusations, denial and redemption, it does offer a fun and irreverent take on the theme.
Never mind the existential questions about how anthropomorphic animals and humans can coexist without anyone batting an eye, or that there are literal fish out of water in it – this is a film best enjoyed with a complete suspension of belief and a willingness to just go with the flow and have a jolly good time.
A not-bad take on bad guys that do good