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SYFY WIRE The Bad Guys

'The Bad Guys' reviews praise 'surprisingly clever,' Tarantino-esque crime caper for kids

Get ready for The Bad Guys, a crime comedy critics say the whole family will love.

By Matthew Jackson
The Bad Guys PRESS

This week, The Bad Guys arrives in theaters, giving families heading to the movies another major option in the wake of the lightning fast box office return of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. But is the kid-friendly crime caper with an all-star voice cast going to deliver on its promise of family fun? Critics say it does — and manages to do a little more along the way. 

Based on the bestselling books by Aaron Blabey, The Bad Guys follows the title crew of anthropomorphic animal criminals, led by Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), as they try to pull off their most challenging job yet: Becoming good guys? That's right, in the wake of a heist gone wrong, Mr. Wolf and his crew are doing their best to be upstanding citizens, but that's easier said than done, especially when new bad guys emerge on the scene to make things much more complicated. 

Directed by animator Pierre Perifel from a script by Etan Cohen, The Bad Guys is inspired by everything from '70s crime capers to the early films of Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy of heist classics, all filtered through an animated lens aimed at family audiences.

According to critics who've already seen the film, it's a blending of sensibilities that works surprisingly well, which has The Bad Guys sitting at a stellar 92 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

"Written by Etan Cohen (Holmes & Watson), this is a very busy, over-stuffed caper, with twists, tangents, and incidental scenes that whizz by under the fast and furious direction of French animator Pierre Perifel, who channels a 1970s vibe with a funky score composed by the prolific Daniel Pemberton (Apple TV+’s The Afterparty) and visual references to everything from Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds to The Blues Brothers and The Hot Rock," Jason Solomons wrote for The Wrap.

"...where The Bad Guys really shines is with its heists. Both satisfying and surprisingly clever in equal measure, the the movie delivers twists and turns moviegoers of all ages won’t necessarily see coming. That’s not easy, and it’s refreshing to see the story play out in a way that avoids the genre’s trappings and keeps you guessing right up until the credits (make sure to stick around for a fun epilogue)," Josh Wilding of Comic Book Movie said. 

But the blending of references isn't the only thing worth celebrating here. Critics also praised the look and sound of the film on a pure craft level, calling The Bad Guys an animated adventure that sets itself apart from the pack with its stylistic choices.

"For anyone attentive to such details, meanwhile, the chief incidental pleasures of The Bad Guys are craft-based, from its disciplined, suitably Californian palette of burnt oranges and canine tans, to the brassy exuberance of Daniel Pemberton’s working-overtime score, full of sonic callbacks to ’70s heist-movie funk. There’s even a killer original musical number, performed with full-throated swagger by In the Heights star [Anthony] Ramos, in which the bad guys pledge, at least for the moment, that they’re 'gonna be good tonight.' For the sake of any future outings with these morally flexible furballs, one hopes such promises are merely temporary," Guy Lodge wrote for Variety.

"The animation of the main characters is a clever balance of flatter two-dimensional characters and computer animation, and some of the visual gags are well done. And in those bookend action sequences, Perifel and his team create solid reminders that animation's barriers are much slimmer than that of live-action, allowing for more creative and intricately detailed chases. When you look at DreamWorks Animation's other titles, both recent releases and their few upcoming ones, it's enough to want to like The Bad Guys more. As it is, the film is light and fun and enjoyable enough, at least in the moment," Josh Spiegel wrote for Slashfilm.

"It’s clear we are only now seeing the seismic, industry-wide impact that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse has had. Since that film’s release in 2018, animated films in Hollywood have learned to be bolder, weirder and more experimental. The Bad Guys is no Spider-Verse, but it’s a fascinating example of a major studio (in this case, DreamWorks) making some brave creative choices they might not have made just a few years previously," John Nugent wrote for Empire.

So, will all this praise be enough to draw audiences into theaters at a rate that could launch The Bad Guys as a new animated franchise? We'll find out soon enough. The Bad Guys is in U.S. theaters Friday.