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‘The Bad Guys: Collector’s Edition’ (Blu-ray review)

What happens when you take some traditional bad guys and try to teach them to be good?

That is what Dreamworks Animation’s latest effort The Bad Guys sets out to investigate as it sees the eponymous, stereotypical bad guys getting apprehended after a failed heist, which leads them to agree to play nice and embrace the power of doing good as part of what appears to be a social experiment, but naturally not all is as it seems.

Offering a series of heists filled with hijinks riffing on various well-known scenarios from everything from Ocean’s Eleven to Mission: Impossible, the film has plenty of entertaining moments that will keep audiences entertained, all the while not quite digging deep enough to do anything but scratch the surface of how a cartoonish take on the heist movie may be realized as a commentary of real life.

The various characters are all likeable as goofy caricatures of creatures with a legacy of being perceived as inherently bad or scary, both living up to expectations as well as subverting them, as per the premise of the film. This helps support the humor of the film, which relies on jokes about misconceptions and whether one lives up to them or not, visual gags and toilet humor, and the odd witty wink to human nature and popular culture at large.

The animation is enjoyable enough, but nothing that breaks the mold when considering what the competition often has to offer in comparison to Dreamworks Animation. Everything is stylized similar to other features concerning anthropomorphic characters you have seen in recent years, but it nonetheless lacks some of the depth and finesse that the likes of Pixar would have brought to a film.

As for the themes of The Bad Guys, not judging a book by its cover is of course at the heart of the story, as the bad guys here are doing what people expect of them because that is what they have always known, leaving the conundrum of nature versus nurture as they seemingly agree to change their ways. This inevitably leads to a number of light life lessons for the little ones, as well as a few twists to both the standard narrative as well as the specific story of The Bad Guys – some of these twists are obvious, some are less so.

Extras include the new short Maraschino Ruby, audio commentary, deleted scenes, and several featurettes.

All in all, The Bad Guys is a charming affair that is just unusual enough to be worth a ping on the family entertainment radar, but it would be a disservice to the film to pretend it can truly compete with the best of the animation behemoth Pixar’s catalogue, but The Bad Guys is nonetheless a perfectly fine little cartoon caper that younger audiences will enjoy and older audiences will not struggle with sitting through either.

As such, it is safe to say that The Bad Guys are pretty good in this case, even if they do not manage to reinvent the animated genre altogether.

 

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