Is Dentsu really that bad to work for? All my ex-coworkers told me to stay away from there when I'm applying for something new.

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I find it to be toxic. I would not send my worst enemy there. No management, no goals, no direction, no culture. And they constantly have large layoffs. They will let people go after a few months if it suits them, and I've never seen it done for performance reasons of the individuals, it's always because management can't plan even 3 months ahead.
I strongly advise you NOT to join Dentsu or any of it's subsidiaries.

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I haven’t seen any great work out of Dentsu Toronto in forever years.

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Dentsu is a great place to get experience, really kind people to work with.

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Thank you Dentsu burner account

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The work isn't exactly stimulating.. leadership talks a lot about changing that but so far all just talk.. no one is really pushing clients to buy into anything creative. Inefficient systems and operational tools. General sense of defeatism by operational and solutions teams when trying to push for change and optimization/customization of inefficient network -wide tools. Some questionable layoffs recently. People say "It is what it is" on the regular.... .. .

I really like the people I work with???

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What did they say about it?

I didn't get any specifics, just "absolute shitshow" and "stay away"

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Toxic network and turned into a bit of a mess. But, know they’re under new/restructured leadership now.

Depends on the account/team.

Could I go there and just stop trying, never work late, make (at best) mediocre work, while still earning decent money? I may be nearing the point in my career where I start coasting and would like to know where I’d fit in.

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