PG for protagonists being...um...bad guys? Like, I don't know how much I have to spell it out. Sure, the film is all about finding the value of being good. But it doesn't change the fact that it makes crime look super fun and appealing. Also, the movie contextualizes what it considers to be "real" bad guys and "fun" bad guys, which is kind of a murky area for a kids movie. Still, I don't deny that the movie is probably accurately rated at PG.
DIRECTOR: Pierre Perifel
Guys, I finally did it. I finally got Covid. Okay, some context. I know that The Bad Guys is in theaters right now. I did not go out to the movies to watch this. I watched it on Amazon Prime Early Access rental. Also, I kind of got Covid on purpose. This has nothing to do with the movie (outside the fact that we had family movie night because we're all on Covid lockdown), but my wife got Covid and we're supposed to go on vacation in a few weeks. So to make sure that we wouldn't ruin our vacation, we realized that if I just got it on purpose, locked down completely, we could go on vacation without fear of being stuck there. Pretty clever.
Anyway, my son was really into these books. I know almost nothing about The Bad Guys outside of the fact that this is an animated movie based on books of the same name. But I live in a post-Zootopia world. When complex morality comes into play in children's movies, we now have a new standard. Honestly, if Zootopia didn't exist, I would look at this film very differently. Because if I look at this film without the juxtaposition, it is a movie about choosing who you want to be, despite expectations. Have an older brother that set you up for failure? Rise above. That's what the movie was shooting for. But Zootopia changed things. Zootopia made it about race. It told the story of cops and robbers from the perspective of race and institutionalized racism. (I really need to watch this movie again.) The Bad Guys kind of does the same thing. With the case of The Bad Guys, it says that wolves, snakes, sharks, spiders, and piranhas are criminals. It takes the focus primarily on wolves because Wolf is the protagonist of the piece.
Now, Wolf can't be the only wolf out there. After all, the movie is about how he was culturally raised to be a bad guy in this society. That's what wolves become, so hence he's just matching cultural expectations. But it is how the film handles everything after this that kind of falls apart. Wolf, when he does something nice for an old lady, realizes that doing nice things makes him feel good. When he publicly saves a kitten from a tree, Wolf's actions trend on social media. What this becomes is an example of Tokenism. The reason that the world is celebrating is that Wolf is one of the good ones. People are amazed that individuals can rise out of their stations in life and become better than what is expected of them. But people were so quick to turn their backs on Wolf when he actually went straight. (Note: I have a real problem that Wolf couldn't help but do another crime given a second opportunity. I want to throw stones at the people for being quick to judge, but he genuinely was going to commit another crime.) (Also note: my 1-year-old threw a really big rock at my shoulder yesterday while my back was turned and it really hurt. That is all.)
To a certain extent, the movie is saying that not all Wolves are bad (which even writing makes me feel icky). If you really squint, I suppose that you could say that we shouldn't judge people by what they look like, but even that's a stretch. But there's also no attack on society on the whole for being bred to accept a society that makes someone like Wolf into a stereotypical wolves. This movie sets up this lovely chessboard of allegory and never actually attacks the people who need attacking: White people. The White police chief is just silly, but she's also not in the wrong for her pursuit of Wolf and the Bad Guys. If anything, she comes across as simple minded, but not bad in any way. Really, the entire movie is driven by the notion that society has placed these characters in a situation that requires them to be Bad Guys and never really attacks the society that does that. The Bad Guys go to jail (despite being pardoned for all of their crimes?) and accept that they can just lie low and be good without the comfort of crime paying.
Okay, but let's move out of this section. We get it. Zootopia was a very good movie. But I do want to look at The Bad Guys as a form of entertainment because there's something here. I had a good time with it. I mean, I did laugh and I had fun with the movie. I do watch everything way too critically, so it hurts to be me. But I want to talk about things I liked. That odd blend of CG-style animation with hand-drawn / appearing to be hand-drawn animation is really cool. I mean, it is really cool. I think ever since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, movie studios have been far more experimental with the way that movies look and we get to benefit from it. Considering that the movie takes heavy influence from Ocean's Eleven, down to even citing George Clooney at one point, it's great to have animation that makes the film feel so kinetic. I know that the great car chase comes from Bullitt but the film just nails how the film is supposed to look and feel. Even more so, there's some really good casting and design choices happening here. It's really REALLY weird to think of Marc Maron as Snake because it does and does not sound like him at the same time. Probably the biggest compliment is that I realized that I wouldn't hate to see this cast in live-action form. If you made them not animals, oddly the film would be amazing. It's a fun crime movie, even if it does get a little silly for kids.
So where I'm left is in a place that realizes that it is a fun movie that has some dangerous implications behind it. Is it going to tear down society? No. But what it will do is probably minimize my times watching it. Knowing that there are other movies doing the same thing, only better, makes me want to watch those other movies sooner.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.