The Bad Guys Review
The Bad Guys is in theaters April 22, 2022.
A leopard never changes its spots, but what about the Big Bad Wolf? The Bad Guys takes this simple premise and runs with it as Wolf, voiced by Sam Rockwell, is determined to go straight after a lifetime of legendary heists. What follows is essentially a heist film for kids, borrowing liberally from the genre to great effect. There’s a coffee shop opener that mirrors Swordfish and Reservoir Dogs, and a heist montage that instantly brings to mind Ocean’s Eleven. Throw in a couple of references to George Clooney and it’s clear where director Pierre Perifel gets his inspiration.
Wolf isn’t alone, of course – his motley crew of criminal creatures includes his old pal Snake (Marc Maron), world-class hacker Tarantula (Awkwafina), master of disguise Shark (Craig Robinson), and their hired muscle, Piranha (Anthony Ramos).Together, they’re The Bad Guys, and while Wolf has his sights set on a life of heroism, it looks as though his fellow crooks will need some convincing.
It’s a clever concept. The Bad Guys is a morality tale that explores whether or not bad guys can change – something we’ve seen time and time again throughout cinema. But this time, the cartoon stylings and fart gags form those lofty questions for a younger audience. Etan Cohen and Hilary Winston’s script is light and refreshing, with enough substance for parents to sink their teeth into while the younger ones can enjoy the (mostly) witty humor with a great big dollop of slick, heist-based action.
Much like Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, each member of the team has a part to play, with Wolf’s crew members leaning on their animalistic skills to great effect. Of course, Tarantula is a hacker – she surfs the web, after all. There’s even a moment when Snake makes a quick costume change by shedding his skin. But some of their skills are hilariously dubious. Shark is a master of disguise, utilizing a wide range of fake mustaches to blend in with henchmen and security guards. Piranha… well, the fish aren’t usually known for their noxious flatulence, but this one’s farts could drop a bank teller at ten paces. Yes, it’s utterly ridiculous, but it won’t fail to put a smile on your face.
The Bad Guys plays up to its ridiculous concept as well as its heist movie roots.You’ll find plenty of over-the-top action that often capably riffs on classic heist beats. Sure, some of the moves may seem familiar – a laser-grid accessible from a conveniently placed vent is straight out of Mission: Impossible. But The Bad Guys rarely plays it straight, improvising on these well-known trappings as eagerly as its stylish jazz soundtrack.The result is that The Bad Guys keeps things fresh – it’s never quite what you expect.
Rockwell is the standout here with a stylish Wolf that has all the right quips for any occasion. He’s quick-witted, cunning, and the perfect role for Rockwell, who clearly has a blast putting together his crew. The chemistry between Rockwell and Maron is perfect as the Snake rasps his way through every scene, Wolf lifting him up with edgy banter that pierces his crime-obsessed veneer. Equally, Zazie Beetz makes an excellent Governor Foxington, bringing a modern flair to local politics with a sassy character who more than keeps up with Rockwell’s Wolf. Richard Ayoade’s soft-voiced Professor Marmalade is the perfect foil – a kind-hearted philanthropist who takes pity on the crew.
The Bad Guys takes a fun, goofy slant on the heist flick with plenty of well-timed slapstick.
The animation style, meanwhile, is wonderfully fresh, taking inspiration from the likes of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Its frantic, edgy tone works well, with a certain Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote dynamic that brings a cartoon-like precision to the caper.
The Bad Guys takes a fun, goofy slant on the heist flick with plenty of well-timed slapstick alongside its impressively over-the-top action. Although the fart jokes may edge towards wearing a bit thin, the humor is plentiful, and with a heart-warming tale of redemption beneath its slick veneer, The Bad Guys pull off a great job. The callbacks to classic crime capers should be entertaining for grown-ups, while the fun-loving criminals will likely keep the kids in stitches.
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