Movie Review: The Bad Guys

 

I really liked the animation of The Bad Guys. Parts of it at least. Abandoning the hyper-detailed showboating that’s long been the norm for computer-animated movies, DreamWorks brings us a movie with sleek art where textures like fur and hair accent the character designs rather than dominate them, and textures like scales are simply drawn onto the model. The eyes stand out the most. Instead of glassy doll eyes, they’re nothing more than ovals with black outlines, pupils, and highlights on the pupils. Bob Clampett didn’t need more than that. Things like explosions and dust trails are depicted with clean 2D shapes which will always do the job better than volumetric clouds or whatever is the snazzy tech these days.

The parts I didn’t like were the human characters. I’m convinced computer animation will never create a human that is not to some degree horrifying. Those in The Bad Guys suffer from that disease of modern cartoon design: they’re rounded grotesques with snub noses, bottom-heavy heads, and mouths shaped liked legumes. Despite this, the overall art direction of the picture is a breath of fresh air. It would have given more hope for the state of animation were the trailers ahead of it not the same tired CGI cartoons we’ve seen for the past decade.

Outside of its animation, this is your stock kiddie flick. The titular gang consists of Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Shark, Ms. Tarantula, and their leader, the suave Mr. Wolf. They wear their badness with pride, robbing the rich with no intention of giving to the poor, getting into high-speed chases for the thrill of it. After being publicly called out by the new governor, Diane Foxington, the crew decide to go on their biggest heist: stealing the Golden Dolphin award.

The characters develop exactly as you expect them to. The “twists” can be seen from Ganymede. Kids with a few movies under their belt will be savvy enough to spot them. Children’s animation isn’t the place to go looking for plots that are daring, experimental, or surprising. That is a little sad, isn’t it? That we don’t trust children with anything that deviates from a formula and might challenge them a little. It’s not fair to judge a movie by what you’d prefer it to be, so how does this fare on its own terms? There’s some fun banter and a few gags that got a chuckle. Mr. Piranha farts, because this is a kids’ movie and there’s gotta be a farter somewhere in there. The script doesn’t pander to parents with barrels of references and jokes meant to go over their kids’ heads.

Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz) poses for a selfie with Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell).

The action scenes use the dynamic camerawork that computer animation makes possible. The voice acting is good. Sam Rockwell gives Mr. Wolf a confident charm. Marc Maron plays Mr. Snake with the right level of jadedness. It was a shock to see Lily Singh’s name in the credits (she plays a bubbly news reporter). Anything that keeps her from writing or doing stand-up should be applauded, I suppose. There is an obligatory musical sequence. Always hated those as a kid.

Kids under ten will enjoy it. I don’t usually make statements like that. Prefer to describe the movie and let readers make their own conclusions, but a review of The Bad Guys would be incomplete otherwise. If your tyke wants to see it, let ’em at it. At worst, you’ll find it tolerable. And animation buffs can smile at the stylish comic book visuals.

It wouldn’t be one of my reviews if I didn’t mention the Lupin III inspiration. Mr. Wolf with his suits, lanky limbs, and cool demeanor takes obvious cues from the Japanese character who was known as Wolf in America for years because of copyright issues. Lovable thieves going on capers is reminiscent of the Lupin series, and the opening car chase especially so, with its shot of money flying out of the car directly referencing the first scene from the classic Lupin film The Castle of Cagliostro. It may not seem like much, but everything is improved with a little Lupin.

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There are 17 comments.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    A fine review, Cat! 

    • #1
  2. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    She’s baaaack!

    • #2
  3. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    I like your reviews. They are so accessible and I like that I learn something from it still without it reaching so far over my head.

    Thanks for reviewing something that’s likely far more pop than your preferences run.

    • #3
  4. DrewInWisconsin, Unapologetic Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Unapologetic Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The Girlie Show: they’re rounded grotesques with snub noses, bottom-heavy heads, and mouths shaped liked legumes.

    Comics | Peanuts | Existentialism | Little Man, What Now?

    • #4
  5. The Girlie Show Member
    The Girlie Show
    @CatIII

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    A fine review, Cat!

    Thanks, Gary. I was a little worried with this review. I didn’t have strong feelings, and the movie was squarely not intended for me. Being a children’s movie isn’t a pass for low quality, but it does require a different critical approach.

    • #5
  6. The Girlie Show Member
    The Girlie Show
    @CatIII

    kedavis (View Comment):

    She’s baaaack!

    Pardon?

    In case there’s any confusion, I’m a guy. I forget not everyone knows that. 😳

    • #6
  7. The Girlie Show Member
    The Girlie Show
    @CatIII

    Stina (View Comment):

    I like your reviews. They are so accessible and I like that I learn something from it still without it reaching so far over my head.

    Thanks for reviewing something that’s likely far more pop than your preferences run.

    Thanks, Stina. That means a lot.

    • #7
  8. The Girlie Show Member
    The Girlie Show
    @CatIII

    DrewInWisconsin, Unapologetic … (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show: they’re rounded grotesques with snub noses, bottom-heavy heads, and mouths shaped liked legumes.

    Comics | Peanuts | Existentialism | Little Man, What Now?

    Like Dr. Seuss characters, the Peanuts are a great example of something working far better as a 2D drawing than a 3D model.

    The style I was referring to is the so-called CalArts style which is seen in shows like the recent Thundercats reboot, Gravity Falls, and most prominently Steven Universe. They have snubbier noses, and that big cheeked, bottom-heavy head I mentioned. The humans in The Bad Guys are definitely 3D versions of that style.

    I didn’t say “CalArts style” specifically because people dispute that it originates from the California Institute of the Arts, and also I don’t want to sound like one of those weirdos who gets really worked up about modern cartoon shows. I’ve never seen any of those shows and have no opinion beyond not liking the art style, though it looks better in two dimensions.

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin, Unapologetic Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Unapologetic Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Unapologetic … (View Comment):

    The Girlie Show: they’re rounded grotesques with snub noses, bottom-heavy heads, and mouths shaped liked legumes.

    Comics | Peanuts | Existentialism | Little Man, What Now?

    Like Dr. Seuss characters, the Peanuts are a great example of something working far better as a 2D drawing than a 3D model.

    The style I was referring to is the so-called CalArts style which is seen in shows like the recent Thundercats reboot, Gravity Falls, and most prominently Steven Universe. They have snubbier noses, and that big cheeked, bottom-heavy head I mentioned. The humans in The Bad Guys are definitely 3D versions of that style.

    I didn’t say “CalArts style” specifically because people dispute that it originates from the California Institute of the Arts, and also I don’t want to sound like one of those weirdos who gets really worked up about modern cartoon shows. I’ve never seen any of those shows and have no opinion beyond not liking the art style, though it looks better in two dimensions.

    I know, I just wanted to show you what immediately popped into my head with that description.

    • #9
  10. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    She’s baaaack!

    Pardon?

    In case there’s any confusion, I’m a guy. I forget not everyone knows that. 😳

    Maybe it’s your choice of avatar photos?

    • #10
  11. Michael Minnott Member
    Michael Minnott
    @MichaelMinnott

    Since you’ve mentioned Lupin I’m now hoping for a review from you of his CGI outing; Lupin III:  The First.

    • #11
  12. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Did someone mention lupins?

     

    • #12
  13. The Girlie Show Member
    The Girlie Show
    @CatIII

    Michael Minnott (View Comment):

    Since you’ve mentioned Lupin I’m now hoping for a review from you of his CGI outing; Lupin III: The First.

    I considered reviewing that back when I watched it. Might still if I watch it again (it’s been too long to have a good enough recollection of it). What I do remember: the CGI was pulled off superbly, the best of any anime I’ve seen. There were some really fun action scenes. The plot was a down-the-line standard Lupin movie. It was on the better end of those films, but just barely. Part of the appeal of the franchise is how reliable it is; I don’t expect major deviations, but some entries pull it off a lot better.

    There are some Lupin films (and possibly series) I will review for sure, though that’s down the line. Lupin III: The First does have enough interesting elements to make it worth a revisit.

    • #13
  14. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    What about Lupin II: Electric Boogaloo?

    • #14
  15. Michael Minnott Member
    Michael Minnott
    @MichaelMinnott

    kedavis (View Comment):

    What about Lupin II: Electric Boogaloo?

    Ask…and you shall receive…

    • #15
  16. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the “Japanese Walt Disney”, and was his first full-length feature film.  

    Not surprisingly, it is head and shoulders above other entries in the series of films about the gallant master thief, Arsène Lupin III; and points the way toward Miyazaki’s triumphs of the Eighties and Nineties.

    The requisite criminal hijinks are, of course, there, but they are contrasted with darker moments, in which the hero fails and comes close to despair.

    • #16
  17. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    The Girlie Show (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    She’s baaaack!

    Pardon?

    In case there’s any confusion, I’m a guy. I forget not everyone knows that. 😳

    I blame your avatars, whoever that really is.

    • #17
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