The Bad Guys is resolutely made for kids but kinda boring for adults

Length: 100 minutes
Director: Pierre Perifel
Writers: Etan Cohen and Hilary Winston (screenplay); Aaron Blabey (book)
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina, Anthony Ramos, Marc Maron, Craig Robinson, Zazie Beetz, Alex Borstein, Richard Ayoade

In cinemas from 17 March 2022 (Singapore, Malaysia)

3 out of 5 stars

In Dreamworks Animation's new animated comedy, The Bad Guys, a notorious crew of animal criminals are finally caught after their last daring heist. To avoid prison, they have to prove to the city that they've turned good. While doing so, they become caught up in the nefarious plot of a real bad guy and have to save the city that has already condemned them as villains.

The devious gang comprises Mr Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Ms Tarantula (Awkwafina), Mr Piranha (Anthony Ramos), Mr Snake (Marc Maron) and Mr Shark (Craig Robinson).

DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys. (Still: United International Pictures)
DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys. (Still: United International Pictures)

Wolf and Snake are best friends and the leaders of the rest of their criminal crew, each of whom possesses a particular skill set as a tech genius, master of disguise or fighting expert.

Just as they're arrested and about to be packed off to jail, Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade), a celebrated do-gooder and all-round smarty in the form of a guinea pig, says that he can reform this group of bad guys. Prof Marmalade offers to rehabilitate them under his tutelage and asks the police and mayor Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) to give them another chance.

The gang agrees to this deal – after all, their alternative is the clinker – but they struggle to change into good guys as the Prof attempts to coach them in the ways of kindness through rescuing kittens and lab test guinea pigs (the non-sapient kind, unlike Professor Marmalade.)

Wolf, however, has a kernel of goodness in him - doing good things awakens the prosocial instincts in him and sets his tail wagging like a dog's. It's up to him to convert his dastardly partners in crime into good people too – and save the city from the true villain who's about to rear its head.

The visual style here is an interesting one that combines computer animation with traditional 2D hand-drawn animation.

DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys. (Still: United International Pictures)
DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys. (Still: United International Pictures)

The storytelling and slapstick jokes will keep kids entertained but the movie isn't nearly as engaging for adults.

At times it carries too far its cartoonish lack of logic and physics during action scenes in such a way that deflates tension and believability.

The theme of misunderstood bad guys trying to turn good has already been given treatments in recent animated films like Wreck-It Ralph and Despicable Me. The Bad Guys can't quite reach the emotional depth of the former or execute slapstick humour that also appeals to adults like the latter.

Nevertheless, it's a fast-paced film about friendship and not judging books by their covers that's great for light viewing for families.

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