The Bad Guys

The Bad Guys is a big screen adaptation of a popular book series for kids, perhaps to tide over the Diary of a Wimpy Kid crowd.  But even as someone who was completely unfamiliar with the series, I thought its feature-length debut was great.  It’s one of the coolest and most exciting films of the year.

In an embellished version of Los Angeles, California, a gang of known-yet-hardly-seen animals run amok.  This band of criminals have pulled off multiple heists and have managed to avoid being caught.  Every mission is, seemingly, a cakewalk for them, and they don’t see a reason to stop their law-breaking ways;  especially when they all get along incredibly well.  When their leader, Wolf (Sam Rockwell), proposes a new heist, it’s met with apprehension by the rest of the gang, until they realize who the mark is and how their infamy will become legendary.

Using similar wit and sharp-tongued exchanges akin to Over the Hedge or Fantastic Mr. Fox, edgy eye-popping animation, and the type of slick influence and stylized action choreography seen in more adult fare like Ocean’s Eleven, The Bad Guys is a clever caper that’s well-cast and keeps us on the edge of our seats as often as it keeps us laughing.  The screenplay by Etan Cohen (who has had a very uneven career from his sarcastic satire in Idiocracy and Tropic Thunder to his more questionable race-based humour in Get Hard) is on top of his game, as he creates completely believable and amusing personalities for each ungainly crook.  His skilled writing is matched with Pierre Perifel’s wild directorial vision.  The Bad Guys is Perifel’s feature-length debut, and I hope audiences will see more from him.

The messaging is really healthy as well, and not too heavy-handed.  I try not to pit films against each other, and I’ve been certainly guilty of that lately.  But, it’s hard not to place The Bad Guys next to Disney’s Zootopia and reflect on how much better the former movie is in terms of its takeaway message.  Zootopia invited inclusivity and wanted to squash stereotypes, and it was admirable until the filmmakers decided to make the villain a blatant stereotype of an Italian mobster.  The Bad Guys sports a similar non-judgemental attitude, and the film is far more consistent with it.  Audiences receive a familiar story about villains having epiphanies about changing their ways, but the arcs unfold more naturally with unpredictable beats and twists;  further solidifying The Bad Guys as a pleasant surprise for movie goers young and old.


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