The Bad Guys

Hold onto your seats! Dreamworks Animation goes full speed ahead into its new chapter with The Bad Guys, a high octane animated thriller that steals from the heist films of the ‘60s and leans into the company’s new direction with an energy we’ve not seen from the studio in quite some time.

With the animation house’s first film following its purchase by Universal, the company hits the ground running with a bold, refreshing new artistic direction. Though not quite Pixar in any respect – particularly with regards to emotional oomph, there’s no denying that the film’s fun, playful attitude and eye-popping animation is certain to entertain the entire family.

"blends technical heist gags, car chase scenes, comedic bits, and buddy road trip elements into the wild and crazy experience"

Originating as a Scholastic graphic novel series from Australian author Aaron Blabey, The Bad Guys series looks at hurtful stereotypes and the constant struggle to change society's perception of past performance as a gauge of one’s future. Sure, that’s pretty heavy stuff – especially for a kid’s movie, and if handled incorrectly might step all over the film’s fun atmosphere and breezy pacing, but screenwriter Etan Cohen and director Pierre Perifel never let the message muddy up the fun.

Playing into the film’s themes of misperception, these bad guys are not just animals, but rather animals that everyone is afraid of. There’s the head of the gang, dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell), world-wise safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), hot-headed Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), and smart-aleck computer hacker Ms. Tarantula (Awkafina). They figure that since everyone is going to hate them for the bodies they are in, they might as well make the most of it and live up to the hate they receive.

Collectively they make up the infamous gang behind many of the city’s countless heists. But when finally caught by the city’s gung-ho police chief Misty Luggins (Alex Borstein), Mr. Wolf forges a deal with law enforcement to save them all from going to prison. In other words, these bad guys will go good.

But nobody has ever failed so hard at trying to be good as these bad guys. Mr. Wolf, et al., are actually working a long con. Under the guidance of Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), the gang sets out to fool the world that they’ve been transformed.

Along the way, Mr. Wolf realizes that being good, though much more difficult than being bad, might actually bring him something he’s always wanted in his life: acceptance. So, when the city is taken over by a villain, Mr. Wolf sets out to convince the rest of the gang to go good along with him. But will they follow?The Bad Guys

If the plot seems a bit overly complicated, it’s because it is. Lengthy segments of the film turn out to make little sense in the grand scheme of things, and the double and then triple crosses may be lost on the youngest members of the audience. But plot aside, there’s plenty of good stuff to entertain the masses.

Riffing on caper movies and other animated films, The Bad Guys blends technical heist gags, car chase scenes, comedic bits, and buddy road trip elements into the wild and crazy experience. While some of those pieces don’t quite work, there’s always the fast-paced action, funny quips, and goofy animal behavior to bring you around.

Dreamworks has done a masterful job with the animation that makes Blabey’s characters leap to life right before our eyes. Though not what we’re used to seeing from Pixar, in many ways it might be better. With deeper shadows, a mix of 3-D and 2-D handlings, and a color palette that makes more bold choices than Pixar might, this is something we’ve not seen before. It’s actually quite fresh and absolutely gorgeous.

By no means should The Bad Guys be considered a top-level animated film. Despite its well-intentioned and deftly-handled themes, there are simply too many clumsy sequences and missed opportunities to reach those heights. Not every animated film can be a Shrek or Toy Story. However, as a broad swath of family entertainment, The Bad Guys may very well steal your heart.

3/5 stars

 Film Details

The Bad Guys

MPAA Rating: PG for action and rude humor.
100 mins
: Pierre Perifel
Etan Cohen
Sam Rockwell (voice); Marc Maron (voice); Awkwafina (voice)
: Animation | Action | Adventure | Crime
Good is No Fun at All.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Do I wish people didn't see us as monsters? Sure, I do. But these are the cards we've been dealt, so we might as well play 'em."
Theatrical Distributor:
Dreamworks Animation
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 22, 2022
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: Several reformed yet misunderstood criminal animals attempt to become good, with some disastrous results along the way.


The Bad Guys