James Clay// Film Critic
GOOD BOYS shouldn’t work. The premise revolves around three foul-mouthed tween boys (Jacob Tremblay, Kenneth L. Williams and Brady Noon) and their pursuit of sixth-grade popularity and an elusive kissing party. The Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-produced comedy is a bit too eager to earn its gross-out merit badge. Director Gene Stupnitsky’s film is elevated by the wistful feeling of growing older, growing apart and navigating life when secret crushes get in the way of your hanging out with friends.
“The Bean Bag Boys” are made up by Max (Tremblay), the budding heartthrob with a crush on a fellow student he’s never spoken a word to named Brixlie (Millie Davis); Lucas (Williams), a bullish kid with a heart of gold whose parents are getting a divorce; and Thor (Noon), a kid with a faux mean streak who just wants to sing his heart out. They are an inseparable trio who spend their days riding bikes, playing trading card games – you know, kiddie stuff. With puberty fast around the corner, they are starting to change outwardly and internally. While swear words and botched sex references run amok, there’s an air of bittersweet emotional baggage that surprisingly has a large presence in Lee Eisenberg’s script. These aren’t the perverted knuckleheads from SUPERBAD. The kids are consenting young men who are straight on the path to wokeness as they approach their teen years.
In spite of having more a progressive outlook on adolescence, GOOD BOYS owes a debt of gratitude to Rogen’s seminal film SUPERBAD. Both films are about a similar topic. Ironically, GOOD BOYS, in many ways, is more mature.
The journey begins for these kids as they are learning how to smooch while preparing for cool kid Soren’s (Isaac Wang) upcoming kissing party. They steal a drone that belongs to Max’s father (Will Forte) and crash the damn thing while spying on their high school neighbors (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). On the cusp of being grounded and losing their coveted access to the popular table, Max and Thor embark on a quest for relevancy (and a new drone), while Lucas attempts to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Tremblay, who is the principal star of the three, finds a nice groove leading these relative newcomers. But it’s Williams who steals the show comedically. And it should be mentioned that Moon displays some burgeoning bravado. They make quite the endearing onscreen trio who will no doubt become a favorite for kids who are too young to even buy a ticket to see the movie in a theater.
There’s a version of this film that would fall flat and be a cringeworthy mess ripe with inappropriate jokes keen on exploiting its cast. While imperfect, GOOD BOYS captures the authenticity of what it feels like to discover cuss words and start becoming hormonal. Directing his first feature, Stupnitsky mines solid performances from all three of his actors, who seem to be entirely at ease on camera. It could be a testament to his natural ability to find humor in human moments or the talent of his actors. Either way, GOOD BOYS is far more successful than many studio comedies this year.
This gimmicky premise rises far above what the film promises. While adults more than likely aren’t expecting much out of cursing kids, there’s a message that rings true about finding your place in the world.
GOOD BOYS opens nationwide today.