…animal villains, that is
By Bill Urrutia
I was never terrified of cartoon villains from the animated films of the ‘90s and early 2000s. In fact, the so-called anti-heroes are—in a lot of ways—more intriguing: They’re almost always fashionable, deadly competent, have a knack for witty responses, and are filled with purpose and vision. Imagine the likes of Jafaar, Cruella De Vil, Scar, Ursula, Syndrome, and Hades. Villains in a traditional story, unfortunately, are always sidelined by the hero: the humble, genuine, knight in shining armor which, by the way, represents a lack of experience in the battlefield.
Throughout the history of film, the general trope for “bad guys” has been, well, bad. Only recently has the industry fully opened its doors to the appreciation of a villain. Ultimately, how they evolved to embrace their character and the societal perceptions toward 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 animal kingdom villains; namely a shark, a piranha, a tarantula, a snake, and a wolf. How could they live their lives aside from being an evildoer if their very existence is deemed villainous? Quite expectedly, several scenes in the film is almost an animated version of “Too Fast 2 Furious” and “Now You See Me”: the heavily strategized theft of a bank, grand car chase scenes, the after-heist celebrations, and the characters’ stereotypical confidence and poise, all of which are pillars of an American action movie.
The movie, however, dives deeper than surface-level action. It progresses to show the evolution of the heroes—or in this case, anti-heroes? And, as is true with many other films, this process is what hooks the viewer into the narrative. Different scenarios showcase the minute behavioral shift of the characters, ultimately taking the viewer on-board in their development journey. And quite a journey, it is. Did an animated comedy film featuring animals just turn me into a better human being?
Call it feel good, family-friendly, general audience, or the like, but “The Bad Guys” really is for every kind viewer. One can look at it through the eyes a child, seeing animals talk 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-rooted behaviors can change given the proper guidance, patience, and initiative.
Although, targeting every type of audience is a double-edged sword. Who are the film’s intended viewers? How does it affect the story? Further, I believe that the story can be tighter and some plot twists seem forced and out of place. Which is okay, given that some movies do not heavily rely on the finer details to deliver the point of the story.
Regardless of how one perceives the film, one idea resonates: Looking at the world through the eyes of a villain can help remind one that there’s more than just one way of perceiving the world.
Given its proper characterization, superb animation, and the values represented, we give “The Bad Guys” a 3.5 out of 5.
“The Bad Guys” is currently screening in theaters in the Philippines. The film is distributed by Universal Pictures International.