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How The Bad Guys Shows That Everyone Deserves Redemption

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Spoiler Warning: The Bad Guys

Can people ever really change? In today’s turbulent cultural climate, it is difficult to imagine that they can. However, if humans can’t change, is it possible that animals can? Or, at the very least, animated animals? This is the question that Dreamworks’ The Bad Guys, directed by animator Pierre Perifel (Monsters vs. Aliens, Shrek Forever After) in his feature directorial debut, attempts to answer.

Regardless of whether or not the film represents an ultimatum on the adaptability of an animal’s conscience, The Bad Guys was a massive hit. Of course, this must have been a relief for Perifel, as he certainly had large shoes to fill in making a Dreamworks Animation film.

The Bad Guys, a gang of criminal critters from which the film obviously draws its title, are voiced by an impressive roster of actors. The gang’s leader, Mr. Wolf, is voiced by Sam Rockwell (Jojo Rabbit, F Is for Family), Marc Maron (GLOW, Joker) gives voice to the safe-cracking snake Mr. Snake, Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Jumanji: The Next Level) plays Ms. Tarantula, a hacker, Craig Robinson (The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is Mr. Shark, and Anthony Ramos (Hamilton, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) portrays Mr. Piranha.

Every member of the bad guys has a whole host of hurdles in the way of their attempt to reform their criminal practices. Here’s how The Bad Guys is an exercise in radical redemption.

Things are not all sunshine and rainbow for the animals who make up the titular gang, The Bad Guys. Obviously, attempting to overhaul one’s entire lifestyle is difficult. When the team’s leader, Mr. Wolf, accidentally helps an elderly woman during the course of the film’s opening heist, it does not begin a straightforward journey for all the team members becoming good guys. This is evident when the crew attempts to release a gaggle of research guinea pigs, only to have Mr. Snake eat the animals he was attempting to save.

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Changing one’s life is a process, and The Bad Guys fully acknowledge this, making all of its characters complex and their journey all the more relatable. Fortunately for the film’s protagonists, they always have their fellow gang members as their partners in crime, which in this instance, with the characters leaning on one another as they try and fail to change their lives, is actually a good thing.

Certain aspects of The Bad Guys’ collective reputation are justified, given their long and storied career as criminals. However, not all the ill will toward the gang is warranted. At one point in the film, Mr. Wolf confides in Zazie Beetz’ (Deadpool, Joker) Diane Foxington, expressing how disheartening it is that he has been consistently assumed to be a criminal simply due to the fact that he is a wolf.

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The Bad Guys doesn’t attempt to make the titular gang out to be anything other than criminals until they have completed their respective redemption arcs. However, it acknowledges that certain subsets of animals (or, if one can extrapolate on the film’s real-life parallels, human beings) are immediately castigated as criminals. This can be a major barrier when one is attempting to overhaul their moral center. If an individual is presumed to be a bad guy based solely on inextricable facets of their person, then the very idea of going good is inherently flawed.

Though the titular Bad Guys ultimately do change, there is one animated animal who is undoubtedly an actual bad guy: Professor Marmalade. Even after the film’s protagonists struggle through their journey towards goodness, everything proves to be for naught, as the devious Professor Marmalade was plotting behind their backs the entire time. Marmalade frames the gang for the theft of a meteorite, which he plans to use to command an army of guinea pigs.

In selecting a primary antagonist that was previously presumed to be good (and a reputable professor character at that), The Bad Guys demonstrate that those who are generally perceived to be ‘good guys’ often aren’t. Additionally, the Professor Marmalade character serves as a metaphor for all the ill-intentioned folks who make reforming one’s life so incredibly difficult.

The Bad Guys, ironically, was good. Not only did the film score big at the box office, but it also managed to touch the hearts of audiences. The film demonstrates that people (or, at the very least, animated animals) can change. Everyone deserves a redemption arc, and if The Bad Guys is to be believed, even a nefarious gang of critters with a long rap sheet can find it.

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