The Movie Guru: “The Bad Guys” a delight for the whole family

Grade: Three and a half stars

Jenniffer Wardell
The Movie Guru
Based on a series of graphic novels, “The Bad Guys” follows a group of animals who became criminals because people already saw them as scary.
DreamWorks Animation/Courtesy photo

You’re in for a good time with “The Bad Guys.”

Opening in theaters this weekend, DreamWorks’ latest combines all the zippy fun of a heist movie with the sweet heart of a family film. The animation has all the flair of the main cast, just different enough to keep things interesting. The voice work is vivid, and the twists are deeply satisfying. Add it all up, and you get one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

Based on a series of graphic novels, “The Bad Guys” follows a group of animals who became criminals because people already saw them as scary. When a heist goes wrong, the crew gets taken under the wing of a rich gerbil who wants to rehabilitate their image. Can they learn to be good, or is this just a set up for the greatest heist of all?

Though it’s animated, “The Bad Guys” is a family movie rather than just a kids’ movie. The structure would be respectable in any adult heist movie, clever and fun in all the best ways. You might see the plot twists coming, but you’ll still be absolutely delighted to watch how they pay off. Even the requisite fart joke, so common in kids’ movies these days, has been transformed into a legitimate plot point.

It also takes a refreshing approach to defining “good” and “bad.” The movie makes it clear that being good doesn’t mean you stop having fun, or that you have to do things the same way everyone else does them. “Bad” skills can be used to good ends, and it can be done with flair and a wicked sense of humor. It’s a good message for both kids and adults to hear, and eliminates the preachiness that can drag a lot of kids’ movies down.

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This is also a big part of the reason the movie manages to be so sweet without getting bogged down in sentimentality. The friendship between the team is the backbone of the movie, a group of individuals who decided to care about each other when everyone else turned away from them. That friendship remains the beating heart of the movie, a bond that doesn’t depend on what side of the line they’re currently on.

The animation adds to the movie’s zippy charms as well. Though it’s not as revolutionary as 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “The Bad Guys” has a sleek, stylish look that’s delightfully distinct. It’s perfectly matched to the stylish vibe of the genre, making the chase scenes seem faster and the suits seem sleeker.

Frankly, I know a few live-action movies that could do better with this kind of animation.

Even then, they’d be hard-pressed to match the charm and flair of “The Bad Guys.” If you’re a fan of heist movies, or just want to spend time with some really fun characters, you don’t want to miss out.

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at

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