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The Bad Guys (Christian Movie Review)

Overall

4.5/5

Final Verdict: A hilarious movie with charming characters, beautiful animation, and a wholesome message for all ages.

About The Film

If Zootopia and Ocean’s Eleven had a baby, that offspring would be The Bad Guys. Inspired by classic heist films, the latest animated film from DreamWorks Studios tells the delightful story of a team of notorious criminals—featuring a wolf, snake, piranha, tarantula, and shark. When the criminals bite off more than they can chew, they are arrested and given one final opportunity to prove that the “bad” guys can become the “good” guys. Along the way, there are lots of unexpected twists and turns, endless double-crossing, and a hefty dose of charm, resulting in one of the best animated films in recent memory.    

The Bad Guys is just a ton of fun. From start to finish, it is relentlessly fast paced, although never in an obnoxious or hyper-stimulating way. The movie does slow down on occasion to sprinkle in an emotional story beat or a moral lesson, but it rarely lingers long. It has a wholesome lesson to share (more on that below), but its primary function is to entertain make audiences laugh.

This film is legitimately hilarious. The best part about the humor is that it is suitable for all ages. It rarely descends into the gutters of mindless slapstick or poop jokes to “appease” children, but neither does it cram in a bunch of crude innuendos to satiate long-suffering parents. As with the story overall, most of the humor comes from clever build ups and unexpected twists. Even when it does stoop to “potty” humor—like a repeated fart joke—the gag serves the plot and is used in humorous ways.

The animation is equally well done. The aesthetic is a sort of a stew, with 3D and 2D art styles melded together, and various stylized elements and motifs mixed in. The final result is an animation style that is visually interesting and appealing to look at, but not distracting or attention-seeking.

Like the Bad Guys team themselves, all of these major elements—quick pacing, entertaining story, laugh-out-loud humor, and a charming aesthetic—work together to produce a fun and wholesome film suitable for all ages.

On the Surface

For Consideration

Profanity: A few “placeholder” swears (“fudge” and “OMG”).

Sexuality: None.   

Violence: None.  

Beneath the Surface

Engage the Film

What Does it Mean to be Good?

The tagline on the movie’s poster is “Good is no fun at all.” The movie’s main message is to deconstruct that that slogan and demonstrate that it does, in fact, feel pretty good to do good! The movie approaches this theme from several different angles, and while it is not always clear or simple in its conclusions, there are several worthy teaching moments throughout.

Is being “good” just about what we do, or is it also about how and why we do it? The Bad Guys are tasked with doing good to escape punishment, and have every intention of returning to their criminal ways. While their good deeds earn them public praise, there is clearly something amiss. Adding to this discussion is the sickeningly good, philanthropists Guinea pig, Prof. Marmalade IV, who is tasked with training the Bad Guys on how to be good. Despite his outward reputation for doing good, Marmalade is pompous and self-righteous. His character brings to mind Matthew 6:5-6, and the rebuke of hypocrites who desire to be seen and praised for their righteousness. Consistent with scripture, the movie affirms that even good deeds can be done for bad and sinful reasons.

When it comes to the alternative approach, there is some mixed messaging. The characters are driven to be good largely because it makes them feel good—it produces a “goodness tingle.” At one point, a character informs the Wolf that becoming a good guy is his chance to start fresh, rewrite his story, and make a better life for himself. There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of this (it does feel good to do good and we should choose to life a “good” life), but, to a degree, the focus remains more on self-satisfaction, and less on doing good out a love for neighbor (Mark 12:31). Nevertheless, the final moral transformation of the lovable thieving crew is motivated by their love for each other and friendship, and by sacrificing their own desires for the good of the others.

Proper Perspective & Overcoming Stereotypes 

In one scene, an unattractive sculpture in a courtyard is criticized, until the character realizes that the silhouette cast on the wall forms a beautiful swan. This scene acts as a metaphor for another of the movie’s major themes. As part of the heists, characters are constantly tricking others by manipulating and subverting their understanding of the situation.  On a deeper level, each member of the Bad Guys is an animal that people are commonly afraid of. They have fallen into their life of crime because that is what the world expected of them. By the end of the film, however, they have realized that they have a choice in who they are and are not defined by stereotypes, or the opinion/expectation of others.

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