Transfiguring Adoption awarded this movie 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]
Genre:Comedy, Adventure, Animation, Kids & Family
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
From the Cover of The Bad Guys by Universal Pictures:
“In the new action comedy from DreamWorks Animation, based on the New York Times best-selling book series, a crackerjack criminal crew of animal outlaws are about to attempt their most challenging con yet–becoming model citizens. Never have there been five friends as infamous as The Bad Guys–dashing pickpocket Mr. Wolf (Academy Award® winner Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), seen-it-all safecracker Mr. Snake (Marc Maron, GLOW), chill master-of-disguise Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson, Hot Tub Time Machine franchise), short-fused “muscle” Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos, In the Heights) and sharp-tongued expert hacker Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians), aka “Webs.” But when, after years of countless heists and being the world’s most-wanted villains, the gang is finally caught, Mr. Wolf brokers a deal (that he has no intention of keeping) to save them all from prison: The Bad Guys will go good. Under the tutelage of their mentor Professor Marmalade (Richard Ayoade, Paddington 2), an arrogant (but adorable!) guinea pig, The Bad Guys set out to fool the world that they’ve been transformed. Along the way, though, Mr. Wolf begins to suspect that doing good for real may give him what he’s always secretly longed for: acceptance. So when a new villain threatens the city, can Mr. Wolf persuade the rest of the gang to become… The Good Guys?”
Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
Universal Studios brings us a new group of characters for us to go along on various antics and an adventure. The film seems to be have created for the general public but especially targeting elementary through middle school children. However, there are gags and scenarios that the whole family can appreciate in this film. The animation style is uniquely stylized for this cartoon making it visually appealing. The humor within the storyline will hit everything thing from childish gags about characters ending up in boxer shorts to more sophisticated jokes which will go over the heads of younger viewers.
The plot of the animation finds five friends, who the public labels as evil, pulling off heists. Their belief is that if you are going to be labeled as bad, you might as well make it work to your advantage. During the course of the plot the friends are caught by the police but not before Wolf gets a taste of the good feels from accidentally helping an old woman. In a last ditch effort to keep everyone out of prison, Wolf suggests that Professor Marmalade, who is the nicest creature in the city, help rehabilitate the gang. This secretly allows Wolf to explore the good feelings he got from helping others. The rest of the movie provides lessons in labels and how they impact us and how we can choose to react to them.
Overall, this reviewer found only mild issues with this animation, which you can explore below. Although it doesn’t appear that this cartoon will win any major awards and it isn’t popular enough to form a cult following, it is a very entertaining show with healthy conversation starter possibilities.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
As was mentioned above this film is most likely targeting elementary through middle school aged children. The animation was made for the general public and is not seeking to simply target only foster and adoptive families. However, foster and adoptive families are going to be very much interested in the topic of coping with labels that people are given by peers and society. Foster and adoptive families often have to deal with labels on their family or children. This movie will provide families with an opportunity to discuss many aspects about labels and how they impact people.
The main characters of the film have been labeled as the “bad guys” of many childhood stories. As such, the group of friends collectively believes that they should own their label and live up to those expectations to their benefit by pulling off various illegal heists. Children who have been in the foster care system are sometimes labels as “bad kids” or “trouble children.” As the characters in this film wrestle with owning their label or overcoming their label, children from traumatic background should be able to identify with the process. It would be good for families to discuss the labels put on the characters of the film (good & bad) as well as converse about what it might look like to overcome or not accept bad labels.
- Considering Other’s Needs First
When the main group of characters are being taught to make better decisions, they are asked to share a push pop popsicle. Mr. Snake finds that he cannot do this at the beginning of the movie but is able to share toward the end of the movie. The film uses this whole occasion to talk to the audience that the motivator for this action is putting the other person’s needs ahead of your own. Children who come from traumatic backgrounds may find that it difficult to put this idea into practice because they have had to care for their own needs for much of their life. It would be good for families to talk about how Mr. Snake and the group of friends felt once they shared. It would be great to converse about how making this decision isn’t necessarily easy as some decisions are difficult to make in life.
- Overcoming Negative Judgement
Through the course of the film Wolf and his friends come up against negative judgement even when they are attempting to make good decisions. At one point during the movie Wolf expresses with Governor Foxington his belief that he is a “bad guy,” so it would be futile to overcome this label as no one will ever believe that he is more than this label. Foxington states, “Maybe they’ll believe you; maybe they won’t. Don’t do it for them. Do it for you.” It would be great for parents to talk with children about how everyone needs to decide what kind of person they want to be and what kind of decisions they want to make. It would also be beneficial to talk about how your family would support each other whether someone makes good decisions or bad decisions.
Lastly, toward the end of the film Governor Foxington reveals that she used to be a master thief due to people giving her the label as the “tricky fox.” She expresses to Wolf that one day she realized that her decisions were making people right about what they thought about her. After she decides to make better decisions she states, “I was still ‘me,” but ‘me’ on the right side.” Right before this she also tells Wolf that leaving everything thing you know isn’t easy. Once again it would be great for parents to talk to their children about the kind of person they want to be in life and what kind of decisions need to be made to achieve this. It would also be good to identify that making the right decisions isn’t always going to be easy, especially if it means breaking old habits.
- Feelings Decisions Cause
During the film various characters describe how it feels when they make the right decision. The animals express that there is a tingling up their spine and their tails wag. For children from traumatic backgrounds it can often be difficult for them to identify their feelings or emotions. It would be very helpful for families to spend some time discussing how the animals in the movie felt when making a good or bad decision. It would then be interesting to dive further into the thought to try and see if the family can give examples about how they felt emotional and physically when make a good or bad decision in life.
- Accepting Consequences
At the beginning of the film the gang of friends run away from the police when they are found out pulling a heist. However, at the end of the film when the gang of friends make the decision to do what right, they all voluntarily turn themselves into the police chief to accept the punishment for all the heists they have committed. This reviewer personally appreciated this movie’s choice to show children that doing the right thing might mean accepting consequences we would rather escape. For families dealing with trauma backgrounds it would be beneficial to discuss this topic. It would be worth talking about the fact that Governor Foxington was a support through the process and beneficial to note that the gang was able to make it through the punishment to come out successfully on the other end.
- Lies Will Catch Up With You
Wolf’s lies eventually catch up with him and almost cost him his friendships. Professor Marmalade’s lies eventually catch with him and he is discovered to be a criminal. Everyone has to contend with the decision to be honest or lie. However, children from traumatic backgrounds may have adopted lying as a survival technique to stay out of trouble or get people to like them. It would be worthwhile for families to discuss how even thought the lying in the movie might have seemed like a good idea for the characters at first, the lies eventually landed the characters into horrible situations. It would be good to discuss how these situations might play out in real life.
The friendship of the five main characters revolves around their shared emotions of knowing what it is like for everyone to dislike them because they are considered “bad guys.” Later in the film the wolf is enjoying the feeling and emotions of making good decisions. He lies about his feelings to Mr. Snake in fear that it will harm their friendship. These two situations as well as others would be good considerations for parents to talk to their children about the properties of a “good” friendship. It would also be good for parents to discuss with their kids various foundations that would make for a healthy or unhealthy friendship.
There are two or three scenes depicting characters in the film with martinis. The scenes are not a major part of the movie and it is this reviewer’s belief that most children will not even notice these situations. However, children coming from abusive situations where guardians excessively used alcohol might have a heightened sensitivity to this issue. Thus, we merely mention it so that parents are aware of the situation before being “blind-sided.”
- Distrustful Nature
The chief of police (as well as several nameless background characters) seem to quickly believe that Wolf and his gang have done some bad or pulled a heist even when it is untrue. The chief also seems to be delighted when she can catch Wolf in the act of doing something wrong. Many children from traumatic backgrounds have a difficult time trusting adults. Seeing adults and figures in leadership being distrustful of good intentions or excited to catch someone doing something wrong might be hard for some children to experience.
- Labeling Characters “Good” or “Bad”
Children from traumatic backgrounds and especially those who have been in the foster care system or adopted could be very sensitive to people being called names or being given negative labels. They might also have a heightened sensitivity to seeing certain people being given exceptionally positive labels while other people are passed over. While this film is excellent with broaching the subject of labels, parents should be aware of their child’s needs and how sensitive they might be to characters being made to feel like outcasts through labeling.
- Failed Birthdays
During the movie Mr. Snake expresses the mysterious reason he dislikes birthdays is due to no one wanting to celebrate or come to a birthday party when people label you as a monster. This is a fleeting moment in the movie. However, for children from traumatic backgrounds who are hyper sensitive to failed birthdays, this scene might trigger emotions for them.
- How many stories can you think of that include the Big Bad Wolf?
Caregiver Note: While you might be aware of various childhood stories including the Big Bad Wolf, children from traumatic pasts might not have been exposed to these stories. This question is a good way to discover what childhood stories it might be fun to catch your child up on so that they have similar experiences as their peers.
- Why do you think it was so hard for Mr. Snake to share a push-up popsicle?
Caregiver Note: For this question you are not looking for anything too deep. It is merely a way for you to connect with your child and see if both of you feel similar about the motivations of the character in the movie.
- Why do you think people think Wolf and his friends are bad people?
Caregiver Note: This movie explores the concept of negative labels and their impacts on people. This is a great time for you and your family to discuss the motivation for people to make a negative label on someone else.
- Why do you think Mr. Snake hated birthdays?
Caregiver Note: Children from traumatic backgrounds and especially those who have been through the foster care system may have experienced many failed birthdays. This could be due to moving around too much, other families labeling the child with negative labels, the child exhibiting behaviors which make it difficult for others to interact socially with them, and so on. This is a good question to probe your child for feelings and thoughts surrounding birthdays. You child might simply talk about Mr. Snake but may feel compelled to talk about their own experiences with birthdays.
- How would you feel about birthdays if you were Mr. Snake?
Caregiver Note: This question is building from the previous question. While we are still talking about Mr. Snake, this question is hoping to get your child’s feelings about failed birthdays. You might even expand the question to discuss failed holiday celebrations. Don’t expect your child to express vastly deep thoughts but be grateful for any thoughts you can get from this question. It could be possible that your child might want to talk about this in the weeks to come, so be available.
- Do you think anyone ever makes bad labels about people at school? About you?
Caregiver Note: After discussing the previous question, we want to take the conversation a little be deeper and see if your child is open to discussing negative labels they are experiencing. Your child may or may not be open to talking specifically about their own situation. As the caregiver it would be good to be grateful for any discussion you can get from this question. If possible, see if you can discuss possible motivations for the negative labels that are discussed.
- Governor Foxington tells Wolf at one point, “Maybe they’ll believe you; maybe they won’t. Don’t do it for them. Do it for you.” What do you think she meant by that?
Caregiver Note: Children from traumatic backgrounds and especially children, who have been in the foster care system, feel out of place and some have the need to feel accepted by peers so much that they will listen, own, and act upon the good and bad labels by even perfect strangers. While it is a good idea for your child to make good decisions, it is worth discussing the reasoning for why they would make those decisions.
- We can’t stop people from labeling us but we can choose which people we listen to. Who are people that we should listen to their suggestions? How do you know who to listen to?
Caregiver Note: This is a great conversation for any family to have together. Throughout your child’s entire life (even into adulthood), they will have to learn how to cope with people labeling them or talking about them in the positive and negative. It is a good exercise for your child to learn within your family how they can choose healthy people to listen to in life. Children from traumatic backgrounds sometimes may want to please everyone to be accepted and thus will allow even strangers to speak criticism over them.
- Why do you think Wolf and the gang wanted the Chief to arrest them at the end of the movie?
Caregiver Note: The main characters of the film discover through the course of the film that making good decisions can actually cause a person to have positive feelings. As part of their decision to “turn over a new leaf,” the gang turns themselves into the chief of police to pay the consequences for all of their past crimes. Children from traumatic pasts have often had to use survival techniques and instincts for so long that they may naturally avoid negative consequences more readily than others. It is beneficial for families to have a conversation about this situation in the movie to not only discover the importance of taking responsibility for actions but more importantly it is important to let children note that the characters come out the other side of their punishment in a good status.
- Do you think Wolf and his friends are failures because they got caught by the police and were allowed to be arrested?
Caregiver Note: Again we are building off of the previous question. Many children from traumatic backgrounds have a difficult time separating their actions from their being. What I mean is that when you or I make a bad decision, we can say that we make a mistake. However, our children from traumatic pasts come to the conclusion that they ARE the mistake. Thus, it is very important to dialogue about the bad (and even good) decisions in the movie and pointing out that Wolf isn’t a “bad person.” Your children should be able to see that anyone can make good/bad decisions, take responsibility for the consequences, but these decisions don’t necessarily define who we are.
About the Author: Darren Fink
Co-founder and President of Transfiguring Adoption. Darren is a graduate of Illinois State University where he studied fine art. He offers foster and adoptive parents over a decade of experience in parenting foster and adoptive children, as well as his introductory to counseling training. Darren is the author of the [“A Guide to Magical Creatures Around Your Home,”] book series.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.