Someone wants to bust out DreamWorks Animation‘s The Bad Guys from jail. This animated film continues one of this studio’s goals of adapting wildly successful children’s novels to film, and Aaron Blabey‘s original work is well worth investigating after seeing this cinematic adaptation. They may explain the finer points of why these rowdy masters of crime have turned good. There’s fifteen books to show why!
Not even Michael Jackson can sing the praises of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, maybe. That‘s due to Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell) seeing the light. This film might as well be a behavioural study of more than just one criminal. This leading character comes from the Canis genus. As most dog owners know, when their beloved pet wags their tail, they’re very appreciative of the attention they’re getting. When Mr. Wolf finds his own tail acting on its own rather than crooked, we get a wonderful look at why doing good deeds matter. No matter how hard he tries to disguise his gang’s actions as being bad, there’s a measure of good intent nestled in all their actions.
Under the guise of planning another crime, Mr. Wolf and gang want to restore their honour. Just how nasty their actions seem to be depends on whether people believe this cinematic take is original. The plot is essentially Oceans 11.
I’m recognizing a bit of Lupin the IIIrd in Mr. Wolf. It’s funny to see how both lose their pants and the boxers they wear are familiar enough. They might as well be mirror universe versions of each other! The name is also telling.
Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina) make up the rest of the team. They’re not as charming as their leader, but they add some personality like The A-Team. Their traits are based on the species they’re from, but I’m still stuck on why the Shark is a master of disguise. The group shows some good camaraderie, though, but that’s not enough to sell me on respecting the Bad Guys.
This film marks a shift in style for DreamWorks. The stylized noir and different character design takes getting used to. Also, the world is not entirely anthropomorphic when compared to the early graphic novels. The Bad Guys live and operate in a human world, and the sense the two sides are trepidatious towards each other isn’t always there.
Another difference is in how the print edition greatly uses the text to carry the tale. Some words are capitalised and are in a thicker font. Usually, not every aspect of the published version is carried over to film. DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon is an example; Toothless is a tiny dragon in one format, but is much bigger in another. I’m okay with the changes because I suspect this film doesn’t want to imitate Zombieland. There’s very few works which jazz the medium up, namely Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and for this film, it may be the first to go beyond the traditional CGI style texture mapping and shading. All the upcoming works are a return to style. I suspect they’ll have to find a graphic novel series with a groundbreaking look before this studio will consider going nouveau again.
3 Stars out of 5