If, through the power of weird science, we could splice together the DNA of Seth Rogen and John Hughes and then ask the resultant homunculus to make a movie, we would probably get something akin to Good Boys. Filled with as many jokes about anal beads and recreational drugs as there are painfully accurate insights into the awkward psyches of young characters going through the trials of growing up, this new R-rated coming of age comedy is a raunchy blast with heart.
The inclusion of Rogen in that opening bit of postulating is not just due to the funnyman’s no-holds-barred stoner comedy reputation, but rather because Rogen actually produces Good Boys with frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg. They’re no strangers to tales of youngsters behaving badly for laughs having given us 2007’s Superbad, which saw two friends on the cusp of graduating high school willing to do anything to lose their virginities. Earlier this year we also got Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, which has often been tagged as Superbad for girls. Good Boys fits neatly in this company, but changes things up by aiming much lower in the age bracket. So low that the actors who star in this film are too young to watch it.
Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are lifelong best bud tweens who couldn’t be more different. Max is the most mature of the bunch, both emotionally and sexually – as much as that latter term applies to a 12-year old who doesn’t know enough about these things to know that he doesn’t know enough these things. Thor is the bristly wannabe cool kid who will do everything he can to shake off his childish nickname and image. Meanwhile, Lucas is the beating heart of the group, a deeply sensitive soul whose extreme aversion to lying lands the boys in some very humorous situations.
Still prone to building pillow forts, the “Beanbag Boys”, as the trio affectionately call themselves, are taking their first steps into the social deathmatch that is the sixth grade. And that includes getting invited to their first kissing party where Max desperately wants to lock lips with his crush. Now if only the boys actually knew how to kiss. Cue the anxiety… and also a scheme to get smooching tips by spying on Max’s older neighbour Hannah (Molly Grace) and her boyfriend using Max’s dad’s “for work” drone. Unfortunately, things go very wrong when Hannah and BFF Lilly (Midori Francis) find and capture the drone, events spiralling out of control into a raucously entertaining cross-town adventure involving drug dealing frat boys, manic foot chases, second-hand sex dolls, death-defying highway crossings, and much more absurdity.
Most importantly though, there’s also a whole lot of growing up going on. And by that, I’m not just talking about the increasingly ludicrous F-bombs and raunchy adult situations that debut director/writer Gene Stupnitsky and co-writer Lee Eisenberg drop the trio into (and which they handle with all the farcical hormonal prepubescent clumsiness you would expect from badly informed tweens). While Max, Thor, and Lucas’ R-rated antics offer a non-stop raucous barrage of comedy, all the dirty words and sexual gags are nothing more than the wildly colourful trimmings of a surprisingly solid structure.
There’s real emotional heft to Stupnitsky and Eisenberg’s coming-of-age story, never settling for cheap feel-good tropes when the dramatic chips are down. While all the bawdy jokes don’t always land wholly successfully – some feel as if the filmmakers were only concerned with how many rude things they could get the kids to say – the character drama aspects never falter. Touching on everything from toxic masculinity to the nuanced complexities of friendship with a touch defter than you usually see from productions about mature adults by seasoned filmmakers, it’s almost shocking to see just how insightful this side of Good Boys actually is.
And the kids sell the earnestness of the material by nailing their performances, hopping from foul-mouthed mania to gut-punch tenderness with ease. Tremblay and Williams, in particular, stand out, with another hugely funny turn coming from Izaac Wang as Soren, the supremely-cool rich kid in their grade whose party the boys are so desperate to attend.
This is definitely not the most original film you’ll see, as the Superbad and Booksmart comparisons above make painfully obvious. The difference here is that the genre very rarely skews this young, adding an undeniable extra layer of risqué charm. And there’s no denying how riotously entertaining this whole affair is.
Stupnitsky throws his incredibly game cast into some bonkers scenarios, and as a result, side-splitting guffaws abound in nearly every scene. But it’s the soon-to-be hot ticket filmmaker’s ability to balance out that ridiculousness with the grounded and far more touching moments of heart that really makes this film soar. They say “good guys finish last”, but Good Boys is most certainly tops!
Last Updated: August 30, 2019