Review: Good Boys

by Andrew Parker

If you have no moral objections to watching a trio of potty-mouthed twelve year old boys delivering jokes most forty year olds and frat boys would think twice about making, the energetic and relentless comedy Good Boys will make for an enjoyable, but exhausting experience. Deploying a plentiful amount of put-downs, sight gags, slapstick set-pieces, and youthful comedic misunderstandings at a breakneck 90 minute pace, Good Boys will elicit plenty of comparisons to Superbad thanks to its premise of three kids trying to get to a party, which is somewhat unfair when one stops to consider that the trio of main characters in director and co-writer Gene Stupnitsky’s debut feature are actually quite likeable and worth rooting for. If anything, Good Boys is more in line with the likes of Step Brothers or Anchorman; the type of movie that refuses to let more than a few seconds go by without a joke.

The Bean Bag Boys – Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) – have been inseparable friends for years and are equally excited and terrified at the prospect of entering middle school. They’re trying hard to impress their peers and starting to notice girls for the first time. They don’t know much about sex or partying, but they like to pretend that they do. Max is told by the most popular kid in school (Izaac Wang, playing possibly the most effortlessly cool tween in cinematic history) that there’s going to be a kissing party in his parents’ basement. Max is invited, which is great because his secret crush (Millie Davis) will be attending, but he has to plead on behalf of his more socially awkward buddies to get them into the party. Realizing that they don’t know anything about kissing and that they don’t want to seem inexperienced, The Bean Bag Boys set into motion a series of dangerous, irresponsible, and somewhat implausible events en route to the big party.

Stupnitsky starts Good Boys at a ten and rarely drops things below a nine. The first act of Good Boys rapidly describes everything we need to know about the characters and the traits that will come back to bite each of them on the ass before the movie ends. Max wants to appear cool and worldly, and his loving dad (Will Forte) has left for a couple of days and trusted that his son won’t touch his prized drone. Lucas is an absolute sweetheart of a kid who’s honest to a fault, and his parents (Lil Rel Howery and Retta) have just broken the news that they’re getting a divorce. Thor is a great singer, but he’s afraid that showcasing his talents will open him up to further ridicule from his biggest bully (Chance Hurstfield) and that he’ll be branded as a “try-hard” for the rest of his life. Thor’s parents also have an apparently active, thriving, and experimental sex life, offering the boys plenty of “marital aids” to play with and misunderstand. They’re given a set of goals: learn how to kiss; find a way to replace the drone they accidentally break while spying on a pair of teenage girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis); stay one step ahead of said girls after they swipe a purse containing a bottle full of party drugs that they attempt to use as leverage.

Good Boys barrels forward between scenes and extended set pieces with breathless and boundless energy, never stopping to acknowledge that all of this is patently ridiculous. Weirdly, my biggest question was why the teen girls chasing the boys were so concerned about not getting their drugs back, when they were intending to go to the big city to see a concert. I understand they want the purse back, but can’t they just buy more drugs in the city? Are there no drug dealers at concerts anymore? Anyway, any questions one might have about the actual dynamics of Good Boys are totally irrelevant, and the whole movie and all of its scenes are built around the simplest of hooks. It’s a film made expressly for those who find the incongruous sight of seemingly innocuous kids swearing and talking about dirty, adult things to be side-splittingly hilarious. While I wouldn’t show any impressionable youths a single second of Good Boys (especially when it comes to some of the more dangerous physical stunts like trying to cross a highway or taking on a bunch of frat boys with a paintball gun), I will admit that I’m a person of simple tastes. Good Boys knows how to make constantly swearing kiddies funny, and as such, I was sufficiently entertained throughout.

The underlying sweetness and gentility of Good Boys helps to guide Stupinsky’s material over some rough patches. Unlike the self-centred jerks at the heart of Superbad, the trio of besties in Good Boys seem like they’re decent kids outside of their sometimes boorish behaviour. They’re naive and awkward, but also totally believable as best friends. Also setting itself apart from it’s bro-magnon brethren is the fact that Good Boys actually values consent, making it ostensibly a sex comedy where the heroes already know more about valuing the feelings of others than most protagonists in such movies. It’s a crude movie, but also one made for people who don’t want to be churlish at all times.

Tremblay, Williams, and Noon are a perfect trio. They can certainly act their ages, but they also have impeccable comedic timing that’s wise beyond their years. Newcomer Noon gets to play the most arrogant and self-assured of the three, and he does so with gusto, but he also has to be able to sing and act more emotionally wounded once rifts start to develop among the friends. Tremblay, who has been a proven dramatic talent for several years now, shows that he has exceptional timing and delivery; the kind of actor who can get a laugh simply from a facial expression or the subtle twisting of a seemingly innocuous phrase. The image of Tremblay awkwardly and slowly shimmying down a playground fireman’s pole makes me chuckle just thinking about it. The biggest revelation of the three has to be Williams, who gets to play the nicest and kindest of the friends, and he’s able to create the deepest emotional connection with the audience. When Lucas says or does something funny, those laughs can quickly turn to “awws,” and it’s easy to feel what the kid is going through.

The main issue with Good Boys outside of its purposefully choppy, episodic construction and perfunctory visual sensibilities (outside of the hair, make-up, and costuming departments, which are unusually good for such a lowbrow comedy), is that the sub-90 minutes still feels endless. The rapid fire joke delivery almost wears out its welcome before the boys ditch school for the day, and it’s up to Stupnitsky’s cast to keep things going. The kids in front of the camera are constantly saving Good Boys from the adults behind it, and while that certainly seems appropriate given the story, it will also leave fans of this type of rapid-fire riffing spent and lethargic by the time it all wraps up. It’s a fine bit of late summer fun, but be ready for nap time once the credits roll.

Good Boys opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, August 16, 2019.

Check out the trailer for Good Boys:

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