Be warned: much of what is about to follow in this review of The Bad Guys will involve me being an older guy and not understanding aspects of a film not aimed at my demographic. I figure I might as well get this out of the way at the beginning. Actually, my main criticism of the film can be summed up by my bafflement over how the world works. If you watched the trailer, then you will know that the title team of classic villains are all animals. There is also the governor, Diane Foxington (voiced by Zazie Beetz), whom I believe you can guess the species of by her name. Other than them, the only other anthropomorphic character is Professor Rupert Marmalade IV (voiced by Richard Ayoade), the talking guinea pig in the trailer. Big (unsurprising) spoiler alert: he is the real villain. As such, my question becomes: where in the Sam Hill are the rest of the animal people? I am sorry, but I think about this stuff while watching a movie like this, and as a result, I am taken right the heck out of it.
The Bad Guys are led by Mr. Wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell). They consist of his best friend and veteran thief Mr. Snake (voiced by Marc Maron); their computer expert Ms. Tarantula (voiced by Awkwafina); their expert of disguises Mr. Shark (voiced by Craig Robinson); and their ill-tempered muscle Mr. Piranha (voiced by Anthony Ramos). They really got creative with these names, did they not? Okay, so, they steal stuff, and we are introduced to them as they pull off their latest heist, much to the unending aggravation of the chief of police, Misty Luggins (voiced by Alex Borstein). When they return to their lair chock full of their ill-gotten goods, Mr. Wolf begins wondering what else might be worthy of their talents to pilfer. It is then that he comes up with the idea for going after the Golden Dolphin award, which is to be given to Professor Marmalade by Governor Foxington at a ceremony in a few days. In order to take it, they come up with their Ocean’s-esque plan. Everything goes according to schedule until Mr. Wolf helps an old lady, preventing her from falling down a flight of stairs. She praises him for the good he did, causing Mr. Wolf’s tail to wag in appreciation. This is an unfamiliar sensation for him, and it leads to him losing focus and blowing the job. However, though exposed before the press covering the event, Professor Marmalade comes up with a different idea. Instead, he offers to take the criminals under his wing and show them the benefits of being good guys. The plan is approved by Governor Foxington, who had been schmoozing with Mr. Wolf. The team agrees to this because it means they will be avoiding prison. Still, at first, they are skeptical, though Mr. Wolf sees it as an opportunity. They will play along with Professor Marmalade, but meanwhile plot their next attempt to steal the Golden Dolphin. In fulfilling his end of the bargain, Professor Marmalade’s initial lesson is to have them save a cat from a tree, which ends in them terrifying it further. Switching tactics, Professor Marmalade gives them each cute, animal costume pajamas to wear and tells them to free a bunch of guinea pigs from a laboratory at which they are being experimented. Because Mr. Snake loves to eat guinea pigs, he volunteers to be the one to slip inside and free them, but ends up swallowing the whole batch. As you can tell, things are not going well. It is Mr. Wolf that seems to takes this most personally, and he goes back to Professor Marmalade’s house to try to once more rescue the cat. When he does so successfully, Professor Marmalade records it and puts it on social media. He also suggests to Mr. Wolf that the thief does not need his friends, which is overheard by Mr. Snake. The next day is the night of the subsequent attempt at giving Professor Marmalade the Golden Dolphin award. Yet, at the last second, Mr. Wolf stops himself from pushing the button to execute the final part of their plan. A moment later, it is revealed that a heart shaped meteorite and source of enormous energy had been stolen, and Mr. Wolf and his friends are blamed. In true mustache-twirling villain manner, Professor Marmalade reveals that he had been using them all to steal the space rock so he could build a device to control the minds of others. They are sent to prison, but are quickly sprung by a legendary thief, the Crimson Paw, who turns out to be Governor Foxington. Despite being free, the team feels betrayed by Mr. Wolf, and Mr. Snake decides to join Professor Marmalade. The evil rodent is using his devise to force swarms of guinea pigs to steal the money raised for charity at the ceremony where he was given the award. Mr. Wolf and Governor Foxington team up to stop them, joined by the rest of his former associates. In the ensuing chaos, Mr. Snake feels that Professor Marmalade goes too far, and turns on his one-time ally. It is also revealed that he had swapped out the meteorite for a fake lamp version that Professor Marmalade had made, thus helping to save the day. Though Mr. Wolf and company need to do some time in jail for their crimes, Governor Foxington is waiting for them when they get out, ready to do some good in the world.
The theme in The Bad Guys is one of redemption. This is a familiar one that has been focused on in many of the reviews here on The Legionnaire. Different movies go about showing this classic arc in various ways. When it is such an important piece of the plot, it leaves this Catholic reviewer with little choice but to talk about it. To frame it better, I will remind you that a key aspect of God’s love for us is the transformative affect it can have on us. Though it turns out to be Professor Marmalade in disguise, the thanks given to Mr. Wolf for the good deed he did for the old lady on the steps is an example of how this works. There is no ulterior motive in the display of gratitude, just like God wants only the best for us. This concept is told in a more philosophical way at another point. Before their first attempt at stealing the Golden Dolphin, Mr. Wolf and Governor Foxington are looking at art gathered for the gala. To him, one of the sculptures appears as nothing more than a pile of garbage. She then takes him around to give him the proper perspective of how it is supposed to be seen, and the piece is transformed before their eyes. I feel this is a fitting metaphor for our relationship with God. Often, we see ourselves as little more than trash, particularly when we are feeling the weight of our sins. God always sees the best of us, always knowing the potential, and this is why the door is always open for us to return to Him. He can take the worst imaginable person and mold that person into something incredible. Many of the metaphors used to describe God relate to us being like clay in His hands. Of course, God is not mentioned at all in the film. Regardless, this line of thinking still works.
I can definitely think of worse movies to show your kids than The Bad Guys. Hopefully, this review will help you come to terms with the insane world in which it is set, so that if you are forced to watch it because of parental/guardian duties, you can keep some of your sanity. Just accept that the wolf and guinea pig can talk, and are accepted as people, but the cat and the rest of the guinea pigs in the movie do not have this ability. It does not make sense, but that is these kinds of films for you.