Film

Good Boys

Out of the mouths of babes

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A nearly one-note comedy about a trio of 12 year-old boys who will do anything they must to get to a “kissing party” attended by the girl one of them adores, Gene Stupnitsky’s Good Boys has an endless fascination with hearing preteens curse. Is it funny the first and fourth and seventh time? Sure. Does the novelty wear off? A bit.

The film—produced by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen—has very funny moments, don’t misunderstand.

Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) are the Bean Bag Boys, buddies who have been inseparable since kindergarten. They’re sweet, innocent kids who fear the approach of middle school largely because somebody might try to make them do drugs. (Are we about to see them recoil at their first exposure to internet porn? It’s an R-rated comedy; what do you think?)

At school, they attempt not to be mocked by the Scooter Squad, whose leader, Atticus (Chance Hurstfield), is revered for his killer burns. When Thor isn’t able to make himself take a swig of the warm beer the SS bros are passing around, Atticus dubs him “Sippy Cup,” a taunt that will force the kid to quit everything he loves that isn’t cool, like singing in the school play.

Even in this mild-mannered crew, Luke stands out as a rule follower. But Luke has just learned his parents are divorcing, and, not ready to share the news, he’s out of sorts. Still, when the school’s pint-size Fonzie, Soren (Izaac Wang), invites Max to a party where he might get to kiss Brixlee (Millie Davis), Luke sets his dismay aside to help get his friend get psyched up.

It’s a little tiresome to recount how this project leads the three kids to lose the drone that Max’s dad (Will Forte) uses for work. But having been forbidden to touch the amazing toy, Max is now deep in a substance Good Boys would have no problem naming. Add a couple of more contrivances, and now the drone is being held hostage by two teen girls who live nearby (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis), and the boys have one of their purses, which contains a whole lot of MDMA. A battle ensues.

Along the way, the script by Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (who wrote Bad Teacher together) has a little fun with misunderstood words and grownup norms. They know about consent, for instance, but think a “feminist” is a bad person, like a “sexist” or “racist.” If the writers had worked harder on this kind of verbal gag, the script’s constant variations on “fuck” might feel less monotonous. More problematic, though, is Stupnitsky’s direction of his young cast. Williams, who looks like he’s sitting on a powder keg of comic potential, gives the film’s most engaging performance, but several other kid actors are underutilized or made vanilla by the film’s direction.

Then there are the sex toys. Thor’s parents have a bedroom full of them, and Good Boys treats them like a surefire fount of laughs. That “CPR doll” Thor thinks will help Max learn to kiss? Funny enough, and maybe Max’s experience when he puts his mouth on the thing won’t make you want to call Child Protective Services. But after the film goes to this sticky well a couple of times too many, you may simply be no-laugh disgusted when a string of used anal beads are given to a 12-year-old girl to wear as a necklace.

Or maybe not. The folks in the movie’s premiere audience practically exploded with laughter; maybe ordinary moviegoers will too.

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