Animated comedy film ‘The Bad Guys’ takes viewers through the eyes of a villain – Manila Bulletin
… the bad animals, that is to say
By Bill Urrutia
I’ve never been terrified of cartoon villains from 90s and early 2000s animated films. In fact, so-called antiheroes are – in many ways – more intriguing: they’re almost always fashionable, deadly competent, have a knack for witty responses, and are filled with purpose and vision. Imagine Jafaar, Cruella De Vil, Scar, Ursula, Syndrome and Hades. The villains in a traditional story, unfortunately, are always sidelined by the hero: the humble, genuine, knight in shining armor who, by the way, represents a lack of battlefield experience.
Throughout movie history, the general trope for “bad guys” has been, well, bad. It’s only recently that the industry has fully opened its doors to the appreciation of a villain. Ultimately, how they evolved to embrace their persona and societal perceptions of them as an anti-hero. A few films that best represent this are “Nightcrawler” (2014), “Joker” (2019), “Life of Gru” (2022) and now “The Bad Guys” (2022).
“The Bad Guys” is a film about anthropomorphized villains of the animal kingdom; namely a shark, a piranha, a tarantula, a snake and a wolf. How could they live their life apart from being a wrongdoer if their very existence is deemed wicked? As you might expect, several scenes in the film are almost an animated version of “Too Fast 2 Furious” and “Now You See Me”: the heavily strategic bank robbery, the car chase scenes, the celebrations after the heist and the characters’ stereotypical confidence and poise, which are all mainstays of an American action movie.
The film, however, dives deeper than the surface-level action. It progresses to show the evolution of heroes – or in this case, anti-heroes? And, as is the case with many other films, this process is what hooks the viewer into the narrative. Different storylines present the characters’ minute behavioral change, ultimately taking the viewer on their developmental journey. And quite a journey, that is. Did a humorous animated film featuring animals just turn me into a better human being?
Call it feel good, family friendly, mainstream, etc., but “The Bad Guys” really is for all viewers. You can look at it with the eyes of a child, seeing animals talking with a progressive story; through the eyes of a teenager, implying that the book cannot simply be judged by its cover; or through the eyes of an adult, understanding that deeply ingrained behaviors can change with the right guidance, patience, and initiative.
However, targeting every type of audience is a double-edged sword. Who are the viewers targeted by the film? How does this affect the story? Also, I think the story can be tighter and some twists and turns feel forced and out of place. Which is good, given that some movies don’t rely heavily on the finer details to deliver the story’s point.
However one views the film, one idea resonates: looking at the world through the eyes of a villain can help remind people that there’s more than one way to view the world.
Given its appropriate characterization, superb animation, and values portrayed, we give “The Bad Guys” a 3.5 out of 5.
“The Bad Guys” is currently showing in theaters in the Philippines. The film is distributed by Universal Pictures International.
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