When The Bad Guys starts, we meet two friends having coffee in a diner. This is Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell) and Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), and while Snake is not the nicest guy in the room, it is clear these two have a great friendship. Then, as they leave and try to pay their bill, everyone else is cowering together, scared to death.
Nothing these two did in the opening explains the fear the people had in them until Mr. Wolf and Mr. Snake pay their tab, leave the restaurant, and walk across the street to rob the bank. They then lead the police on a giant chase through the town as they describe that they are the bad guys and have been since birth since no one will ever trust a wolf and snake, or their friends the piranha (Anthony Ramos), shark (Craig Robinson), and tarantula (Awkwafina).
That opening tells the viewer everything they need to know.
These are anthropomorphic characters that no one trusts but survive thanks to their friendship with each other. Of course, in a movie like this that friendship will be tested, and how they deal with it will determine if they will accept their place as bad guys or if they will try to – gasp – become good guys.
Based on the popular children’s book series by Aaron Blabey, the theme is family-friendly, as it says not to judge a book by its cover, even if that book steals your wallet from your pocket and the priceless ring from off your finger.
The main plot in the movie sees the Bad Guys planning the most elaborate heist in history, as they plan to steal the coveted Golden Dolphin Award, presented to the “year’s goodest citizen,” which this year is a guinea pig named Professor Rupert Marmalade (Richard Ayoade) who seems to only want to do the best to help the community, especially after a comet crashed into the town and decimated a large portion of it. The problem is that people have tried to steal it before, and they always failed. Even the world’s greatest thief tried and failed before disappearing forever.
They fail, but as the fox Gov. Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) ordered them to prison, calling them washed-up has-beens, Prof. Marmalade offers to rehabilitate them to prove that everyone can be good.
This leads to the Bad Guys getting a chance to succeed at their goal of stealing the Golden Dolphin Award without realizing that there might be a greater danger surrounding the entire situation. When Mr. Wolf decides he might want to be a good guy, his friends feel betrayed and they will have their friendship tested like no other time if they want to get out of this in one piece.
There are so many influences in The Bad Guys, from the car chases of The Italian Job and Bullitt to the buddy heist movies like Ocean’s Eleven. What makes it so impressive is that the movie pays homage to all these and still feels original, and that is thanks to the great heart beating under the surface of the movie.
Great credit has to go to the animation as well. There have been moments in the past where DreamWorks has pulled out CGI animation that is almost photo-realistic with a touch of anime (the Kung Fu Panda franchise has a few of these moments). However, nothing is as dazzling and stylish as what they presented here, as the entire look of this movie is not like anything else you will see from Disney, Pixar, or Sony Animation. It is gorgeous and French animator Pierre Perifel gives it a Noir atmosphere that is perfect for the tale.
The Bad Guys is a story of a group of heels that prove in the end that they have the ability to become good as long as they stick together as friends. That is a story parents and kids can both relate to, and the great animation and steady stream of jokes and gags make this a fantastic movie for kids of all ages.