They may be bad guys, but they’re a good time, ‘mrite?
In a world where anthropomorphic animals and humans co-exist there’s bound to be some interesting interaction between the two. What do we do with the animals that were born scary? This world treats them as monsters and they are all too happy to oblige. Books are judged by their covers, diner patrons cower in fear at the sight of a wolf having breakfast with an anaconda (the two leave a pretty generous tip, which makes me surprised they haven’t earned the kindness of the staff already), and this futuristic L.A. lives in the wake of a massive meteor strike (the catastrophic damage and loss of life are not acknowledged) that has left them scared, living in a police state, and worshipping a guinea pig named Professor Marmelade (Richard Ayoade) that dared to see beauty in the chaos.
Enter a motley crew of daring thieves. There’s Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), who is a master of disguise. There’s Webs (Awkwafina), a technical tarantula that is a master hacker and serves as the “person in the chair” for the crew. Mr. Pirhana (Anthony Ramos), a psychopath that hasn’t met a fistfight he can’t win. The crew is led by Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), a debonair con artist and genuinely snazzy dresser, and his grumpy best friend Mr. Snake (Marc Maron). The crew are icons for their over-the-top, showy heists that thrill and terrify the viewers. When they get caught by the new governor of California, Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), Mr. Wolf begs Marmelade to teach the crew to be good so that they can pretend to change, sneak into a gala event, and steal the ultimate treasure – The Golden Dolphin. The trouble is…Mr. Wolf is enjoying the joy and praise he gets when he’s kind, as well as the *ahem* attention he’s getting from Foxington.
Adapting a series of Australian children’s books, debut director Pierre Perifel has crafted a very vibrant and thrilling world full of wildly animated characters that move and flail like Tex Avery creations. It’s an exciting series of visuals, one set in a world where vehicles follow a fair amount of the laws of physics because the characters are not. There’s a heart-shaped meteorite that highly resembles a juicy pair of asscheeks, an awards show for being a kind person, and all banks just have millions of dollars in them. It’s a charmingly messy world that manages to feel cohesive, even if the cracks show here and there.
The animation goes a long way in making this work. Opening on a two-and-a-half-minute long shot inspired by Reservoir Dogs, the style feels close to its inspiration – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Art director Floriane Marchix took quite a bit of visual cues from that feature, incorporating more of an illustrative style that feels like a children’s book on a mountain of cocaine.
It pairs well with Daniel Pemberton’s score, one that’s taking ideas from Pulp Fiction and Ocean’s Eleven (fitting, as Mr. Wolf takes quite a bit of inspiration from Danny Ocean). It’s eclectic, manic, and dancing smoothly between improv jazz and modern hip-hop fusion. It’s very telling that The Heavy have a track on this album as they dance that fine line, but the real winner here is the banger of a song performed by Anthony Ramos – “Good Tonight.” Paired with an awesome dance scene/heist setup, the song is the highlight of both the score and the film and I just love it.
The Bad Guys is adorable, but it’s also got a lot of good messages about not demonizing those you’re frightened of without understanding them or giving them a chance. It pairs well with Daniels’s film Everything Everywhere All at Once in its desire to beg the world to just be kind (though Daniels’s film is more of a primal scream while this is a charming lesson). I loved every bit of it and I cannot wait for the rest of you to see it.
The Bad Guys is exclusively in theatres.