Cert – U, Run-time – 1 hour 40 minutes, Director – Pierre Perifel
Infamous heist gang The Bad Guys (Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos) attempt to go good before stealing the annual Golden Dolphin award for goodness.
Throughout the opening stages of The Bad Guys there are two things which help bring you in to the fast-paced world of the titular gang. The first is the bright animation style, carving out a cartoonish feel to the piece, at times a little bit Looney Tunes, with the other being the rush of entertainment and amusement that comes from the unfolding chaos of the on-screen bank job. Despite being able to just walk in and steal as much as they want – people cowering in fear at the presence of leading figures Wolf (Sam Rockwell) and Snake (Marc Maron) – an extensive police chase forms through the streets of the city chasing after the gradually growing gang members as the true plan comes into effect with each figure’s skills coming into use. Tarantula (Awkwafina) is an expert hacker, Shark (Craig Robinson) a master of disguise and Piranha (Anthony Ramos) a loud mixture of lookout, muscle and nausea-inducing flatulence.
When recently-elected governor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) criticises the group as spineless and in denial they decide to steal the top prize of one of the city’s biggest nights, the Golden Dolphin award for goodness. However, when caught in the act they manage to wind themselves into lessons of goodness award-recipient Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade). Attempting to put on a guise of being good their intention is to build up to Marmalade’s big charity event to repair the part of the city destroyed by a heart-shaped meteor before escaping and never being seen again. However, things become slightly more difficult when leader Wolf begins to lean into the good life and the tingly feelings and wagging tails that it provides.
This particular release from Dreamworks Animation certainly feels mostly aimed at kids, particularly with the ways in which it discusses goodness and badness, however there’s still plenty there for the older audiences likely accompanying them. The first half of the film in particularly contains plenty of laughs and chuckles from the cartoonish style and many abrupt gags to enhance the rushing energy of the central group and the various plans and heists they try to pull off. It helps that many of the elements that we see forming the narrative are extended sequences. In fact that film as a whole generally feels made up of extended sequences with various elements playing out for the gang, and one or two figures around them.
While the second half of the piece brings around a slightly more obvious sense of the generic nature of the narrative it still manages to keep you in place and engaged as it pans out. The laughs may die down as the plot becomes more of a focus, but there’s still a strand of amusement and entertainment to be found. It’s provided in the car chases and heist gadgets on display during them, and the heists themselves; not to mention a literal sea of guinea pigs. While each member of the group doesn’t exactly get their moment, and there are clearly those much more prominent than others, there’s still a fair deal of humour from each figure and a distinct enough nature to each one to not make them feel bland or forgotten – helped largely by the voice performances that help bring the characters to life, matching the animation style well. Such elements generally help to keep the film going as its more noticeable basic points arrive. Yet, by the end there’s still been enough consistency in tone, style and energy to keep the film going, and your interest in it engaged. It’s rather pleasant, enjoyable viewing that’s not without its dashes of chaos.
While it might begin to show its somewhat generic narrative in the second half there’s still plenty of laughs and amusement to be had within the delightfully cartoonish energy that The Bad Guys creates.