Every now and then, there comes an animated flick that makes you want to watch all animated flicks released in cinemas. In 2022, that job was performed by The Bad Guys, which might be an animated film but can easily find its place among the best heist films of all time. It was so entertaining that its biggest drawback was not being a live-action flick!
Based on Aaron Blabey’s children’s book series, The Bad Guys revolves around career criminals namely Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), and Mr. Pirahna (Anthony Ramos) who together form a perfect team that robs banks, paintings and everything in between. While Mr. Wolf is the mastermind and getaway driver, Mr. Snake is the safe-cracking expert, Ms. Tarantula is the hacker, Mr. Shark is the master of disguise and Mr. Pirahna is the loose cannon who does all work related to muscles.
Directed by Pierre Perifel, the story changes when the bad guys are apprehended during a heist gone wrong and are sent to be ‘reformed’ to the one person who has no haters in the entire world – the celebrated, philanthropic guinea pig Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade). While it was the Governor Foxington (Zazie Beetz) who ‘pardons’ them, it is up to the Professor to extract the goodness out of them. Unknown to all, the Bad Guys are only trying to be good, as they want their next heist to be their last one, after which they plan to ride off in the sunset. Do they succeed or do they fail, do they turn over a new leaf or do they return to their old ways, watch The Bad Guys if you want to know what happens next.
The presence of the Bad Guys hating police chief Misty (Alex Borstein) is also important to the story as is the timely appearance of Tiffany (Lilly Singh) the reporter who wants to get the news, anyway which she can. It is because of these major and minor characters that The Bad Guys keeps the audience entertained throughout its run. There are jokes related to animal traits and pop culture among other things that are scattered along the way, and keep the audience wanting more.
Despite its late release in Pakistan, The Bad Guys cater to both the young and the old alike. It has a car chase sequence that reminds the audience of most of the classic car chases in Hollywood flicks, followed by a few well-planned heists, some shocking twists and turns, and above all, a climax any film viewer would be proud of. The film might have been based on a children’s book but it gave proper Mission Impossible vibes where bad things happen to the Bad Guys, but still, the audience doesn’t hate them.
Writer-director Etan Cohen’s screenplay has been penned quite intelligently and takes place in a universe where humans and anthropomorphic animals co-exist. It not only plays on the horrid reputations of the Wolf, Snake, Tarantula, Shark, and Piranha but also brings forward their ‘human’ side where they act like normal people who celebrate birthdays, fight over ice cream, and don’t trust anyone. I guess that’s human enough, even for animals with bad reputations!
What makes it different than other animated films is that it doesn’t come across as one; everything from the voice acting to the dialogues and the scenarios seems to remind the audience of some Hollywood flick. At times it’s like Pulp Fiction, at times like Ocean’s Eleven, while sometimes it seems like an animated version of the hit TV show Leverage where there was a planner, a hacker, a hitter, a thief, and a drifter. Get the drift?
Like most animated flicks, this one has a message for all, be it young or old folks. It tells you that being good means putting others’ needs before your own; being good means sharing stuff with others; and that, friends are the best people to be with even if all seems hopeless. The way it handles the ‘A wolf in sheep’s clothing’ idiom and comes up with a story around it, is something only a talented screenplay writer and a director can achieve.
Yes, the film has a few jokes that might not be appropriate for the younger audience but once it moves into the third act, everything else takes the back seat. It steals everything from classic crime capers and owns it in such a way that you end up loving the very concepts you might or might not have seen in other films. The animation style is taken from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the human-animal universe is borrowed from Zootopia while the heist is inspired by every heist movie imaginable.
This high-octane, adventure thriller is not just a good time pass, it also teaches an important lesson to the film students out there. The way the director handles the multiple twists and turns or borrows from the best Hollywood flicks is how it should be done. Being in 3D only makes it more colorful for the audience; don’t be surprised if you end up cheering for The Bad Guys at the end of the film, because their intentions are noble, even if others see them as bad!