Before dropping $12.50 for a ticket to Good Boys, it’s worth calculating your dubious taste threshold. Will you be irreparably offended by tweens cluelessly discovering a sex toy stash, becoming unwilling drug dealers, and engaging in a little petty theft?
If your answer is yes, then you ought spend your money elsewhere. Otherwise, be like me, my wife, and my young adult children and laugh yourselves silly across this film’s duration.
Before Good Boys, writer/director Gene Stupnitsky and co-writer Lee Eisenberg’s most notable credits at IMDb bespeak their involvement in the American run of The Office. So it’s probably just as fruitful to look at the names in the production credits – Jonah Hill, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen – to discern the type of comedy you’ll be watching. Besides starring in movies like The Interview and Superbad, they’ve written the scripts for comedies such as Pineapple Express and Sausage Party.
The characters here are younger than their usual hormone-addled teenaged boys or stoner man-children. At the center of Good Boys are Max, Lucas, and Thor, a trio of inseparable tweens who call themselves the Beanbag Boys. Entering sixth grade, their interests are starting to diverge. Max (Jacob Tremblay) is the first to feel the lure of testosterone, smitten with his classmate Brixlee. Lucas (Keith L. Williams) is still obsessed with deck-building card games, while reeling from the news that his parents are divorcing. Lastly, Thor (Brady Noon) only wants to sing, but is fearful his passion may prove he’s a weenie, as some cooler kids have begun calling him Sippy Cup.
Most of Good Boys unfolds across a single school day. During a failed attempt to learn how to kiss, by spying on older kids next door, Max accidentally demolishes his father’s prized drone. He prevails on his two pals to ditch school with him, in a quest to replace his dad’s drone before a kissing party that night.Though it’s his feature directing debut, Stupnitsky displays an excellent sense of comic timing, both with his verbal and visual gags. The Beanbag Boys debate whether a nymphomaniac is a fire-setter or a girl who has sex on both land and water. The sex toys they discover at Thor’s house have a surprising number of non-sexual uses. And in the first of a handful of well-edited montages, Max’s dreamily swooning expression stays unchanged, as he watches a slow-motion Brixlee engage in decidedly unattractive behavior, sneezing and shaking excess saliva off her retainer.
The proportion of jokes that land versus those that fall flat is enjoyably high. There’s only one major misfire, with the film’s cruel handling of an anti-bullying brigade’s outcast status.
Much of Good Boys’ humor derives from the trio’s innocence, and all three actors do an excellent job of playing it straight, no matter their dialogue or predicament. Beyond that, no-one will mistake this film for an actors’ showcase, though Jacob Tremblay is one of the finest young actors in movies today, as seen in dramas including Room and Wonder. The adults depicting their parents and teachers (among them, Parks and Recreation’s Retta, Lil Rel Howery, and Will Forte) are uniformly cartoonish.
Good Boys is distinctively of its time and place, portraying kids growing up in the 2010s. These middle class suburban boys have been taught to ask for consent before kissing a girl. Their parents don’t exactly hover, but it’s a big deal when they ride their bikes 14 minutes away from home. And the adults are awkwardly, funnily sex positive.
The beating heart of Good Boys is the thick-and-thin bond the Beanbag Boys share, with the film saying as you change and grow, hold onto the friends who have your back and accept you unconditionally. But if you’re seeking comedic coming-of-age profundity, look elsewhere. Good Boys lacks the sagacity of TV’s one-season classic Freaks and Geeks, or even the “ah hah” moment of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when Ferris’ best friend Cameron shakes free of his lousy father.
Still, I’ll take an interlude of insubstantial comedic innocence in this era of global warming and random violence. For my money, those are the subjects our culture is handling offensively.
(Image credit for star rating: Yasir72.multan CC BY-SA 3.0 )