Pierre Perifel’s film “The Bad Guys,” is based on the children’s graphic novel series of the same name and features five lifelong friends notorious for their legendary heists. The group of criminals are anthropomorphic animals; there’s Wolf, Snake, Shark, Piranha and Tarantula. Their bond is based in their commitment to being bad, which stems from their status as predators who were never given the chance to be good.
From the start, the film promises to be a fast-paced, action-packed adventure with beautiful animation and plenty of giggle-worthy moments. But there is one major distraction: The anthropomorphic animals exist among regular humans and regular, unevolved animals.
Viewers spend the majority of the film trying to figure out what the hell is going on. It is jarring to watch regular humans celebrate a humanlike wolf for rescuing a regular cat.
The humanlike wolf is Wolf, who is voiced by Sam Rockwell. Rockwell has a flawless slyness in the film, and animators depict Wolf as a smooth criminal in a fully masculine manner.
Is that wolf supposed to be sexy?
Wolf crushes on the governor, a humanlike fox called Diane Foxington. But, again, questions begin to arise that distract viewers from their charming romance. An evolved humanlike wolf can date a humanlike fox. Can Wolf date a regular fox? Can Wolf date a human?
Viewers don’t want to have to ask these questions, but they emerge involuntarily when a film puts no effort into world building.
Some may say, “it’s a kid’s movie about talking animals, it’s not supposed to make sense.”
But adults and children can only be asked to suspend their disbelief so much. In “Zootopia,” animals have evolved and exist without the presence of humans. Traits of each species are analogous for regular human categories like height, weight and race. Each animal species just feels representative of a class of humans, so it’s not as weird to see cross-species romance.
“The Bad Guys” is so derivative of “Zootopia,” that it feels like discount Disney. The central theme of the two films is identical, the ways in which the films use animals – both predators and prey – as a vehicle for their metaphors is the same and both feature a unsurprising “twist” villain.
Unlike “Zootopia,” “The Bad Guys” lacks charm. Viewers are supposed to feel sorry for the criminals because they were always pegged as such and never had the chance to prove otherwise. But filmmakers give us hardly any exposition. Instead, action and silliness take the lead, leaving behind any emotional investment.
“The Bad Guys” is for children without a Disney + subscription who are young enough to not spend the entire film questioning the efficacy of its storyworld.
Kelsey Percival is the editorial assistant for The Durango Herald and an avowed cinephile. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.