Film reviews and more since 2009

The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday (2023) review

Dir. Bret Haaland

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★

When a series makes the leap from TV/streaming to the big screen, there is typically the presence of upgrades across the board, from story, to visuals, and scope. The Bad Guys technically originated from Aaron Blabey’s series of graphic novels, so the surprisingly ambitious and cleverly written DreamWorks feature film was, by definition, the upgrade for the series. Naturally, the course of evolution continues, and The Bad Guys is now looking to become a low-grade streaming series, and The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday threatens to send the series on a downward trajectory.

When The Bad Guys hit theaters in spring 2022, I called it a revelation because it truly felt original and fresh, especially when juxtaposed against a litany of sequels due for release later in the year. One of Hollywood’s great paradoxes is the second something new and successful is birthed, it will almost inevitably become a product of the sequel machine. This is where I fear a bold new DreamWorks property will become just like so many others.

It’s Christmastime, and this holiday special finds the “Bad Guys” — led by Mr. Wolf (voiced by Michael Godere) and made up of Mr. Shark (Ezekiel Ajeigbe), Mr. Piranha (Raul Ceballos), Mr. Snake (Chris Diamantopoulos), and Ms. Tarantula (Mallory Low) — planning their annual “Holiday Heist-acular.” In true Bad Santa fashion, the annual holiday heists involve the criminal gang waiting till Christmas morning, when all the shops are closed and free of security guards, to rob stores and banks blind. Plans go awry when Mr. Wolf accidentally triggers an accident involving the town’s beloved Santa Claus parade balloon, threatening Christmas be cancelled all together.

As a result, the Bad Guys must restore the Christmas spirit in order to assure they can rob and pillage the city blind. They volunteer at a local soup kitchen, and help organize a holiday pageant, stumbling into the realization of what the Christmas season is all about.

It’s unfair to expect a Netflix original holiday special to harbor the quality of animation of its cinematic counterpart, but A Very Bad Holiday looks like a C-grade Nintendo Wii game by comparison. The animation looks due for another render. The character designs are generic. Gone is the sun-drenched noir-esque visuals of the film. And while it’s no fault of the voice-cast, they can’t match the camaraderie achieved by Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Anthony Ramos, Awkwafina, and Craig Robinson.

The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday isn’t atrocious — at only 25 minutes, it’s easy to blink and miss, frankly — but its lackluster animation and narrative is indicative of how much the film was anchored by rousing visuals and stellar voice acting. Without those ingredients, it’s just a very lukewarm holiday special.

NOTE: The Bad Guys: A Very Bad Holiday is available to stream exclusively on Netflix.

My review of The Bad Guys (2022)

Voiced by: Michael Godere, Ezekiel Ajeigbe, Raul Ceballos, Chris Diamantopoulos, Mallory Low, Zehra Fazal, Keith Silverstein, and Kari Wahlgren. Directed by: Bret Haaland.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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