“I’m tired of being scary,” the lead character in the new animated film The Bad Guys admits, despite his earlier protestations. The character is a wolf, who lives in a world where humans and animals co-exist with each other. Despite the fact that he lives and thrives as a member of society, he recognizes that his existence as a wolf still frightened others long before he became a criminal.
Sometime in his life, he used his "frightening" appearance as a resource and joined a pack of criminals, collectively know as "the bad guys." The group is composed of five different animals, all known for being scary.
There’s Wolf (Sam Rockwell), the leader of the pack. His accomplices are the guinea-pig loving Snake (Marc Maron), the tech-savvy Tarantula (Awkwafina), the larger-than-life Shark (Craig Robinson) and the easily-frustrated Piranha (Anthony Ramos).
The criminals love a good heist and after newly-elected Governor Diane Foxnington (Zazie Beetz) takes office and criticizes them in public, the bad guys decide to make their biggest steal yet. They plan to steal the Golden Dolphin Award, which is scheduled to be given to local philanthropist Rupert Marmalade (Richard Ayoade).There’s one big issue though: at the event, Wolf starts to wonder if he shouldn’t depart from his “bad” ways and start to become a good guy. After the burglary blows up, the main characters are given the opportunity to remain free if they stay out of trouble and change their behavior.
Based on the books by Aaron Blabey, the film presents the main character as a suave, charming lead whose ragtag accomplices are like an Ocean’s 11 crew from the animal kingdom. In fact, there’s even a reference here to Wolf pulling a “Clooney.” The heists themselves are also strategically and thoughtfully laid out so the characters look and act like they are stealing from a Vegas casino or helping Ethan Hunt steal government secrets. The layers of intense security for protecting the Golden Dolphin suggest that this is an award worth protecting.
The characters are colorful themselves but the animators also make them stand out with their distinctive wardrobes and their over-the-top undercover costumes.
Even though there’s a silliness on display here (with one character’s flatulence a running joke), there’s also a deeper story here about characters choosing their own journeys. Each of these characters was stereotyped by others long before the story started but they all have the chance to do overcome those stereotypes and show the world who they really are. In that way, the story aims for greater goals even as it aims to satisfy younger audiences with silly moments and jokes.
There film also showcases the joy that arrives when the characters discover how they are affected when they decide to help other people, rather than just focusing on themselves.
The voice cast is well-suited for their colorful characters but it’s Sam Rockwell who truly stands out as the suave characters who slowly discovers an affection for being one of the good guys. Although there aren’t as many laughs as one would hope for here, Bad Guys still provides an fun ride with a few great life lessons along the way.