Opening on a Tarantino rip of the café scene from Pulp Fiction, The Bad Guys is a new Dreamworks animation that provided a solid quarter-billion hit at the worldwide box-office in financially troubled 2022. It’s slick, noisy and allows a great VO cast to do what they do; there’s Sam Rockwell as a gang leader Mr Wolf, Awkwafina as Ms Tarantula, and Craig Robinson as a disguised Shark in the gang, getting schooled by a hamster called Marmalade (Richard Ayoyade). The cast never met due to Covid, but it’s a shame that such a collection of talent couldn’t be in a live-action film; why should kids have all the fun stuff?
So we slip into an Oceans 11 parody, a safe bet, but one which leaves plenty of opportunity for busy planes of comic action. Mr Wolf is the leader of the Bad Guys, but while in pursuit of big prize Golden Dolphin, experiences a pang of a fresh notion; the importance of doing good. This change of heart doesn’t sit well with the other Bag Guys, but when Mr Wolf falls foul of Marmalade, the sidekicks ride to his rescue.
‘When you do good, you are loved’ is a good motto for this, but the bit that boost this is the set piece included below, when Mr Wolf and his gang hit the highways to the Chemical Brothers propulsive anthem Go. The look of the film aspires to that glutinous sheen of the recent Spiderverse cartoon, and in breakout moments like this, comes away with some smart images that match the iconic music.
The Bad Guys is one of the rare kids films that might well provide some pathos for adults too. The notion of rejecting societal labelling and finding your own way through experience is thoughtfully developed here, and there’s enough humour to keep the kids engaged. The Bad Guys should be a franchise; it would be good to get these guys out of heist movie tropes and maybe grow old with them a bit.