Good Boys (2019)
One Bad Decision Leads to Another
If you’ve seen any of the trailers for Good Boys, the latest R-rated offering from producers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, you’ll notice that they begin with the latter chatting to the young leads about how they’re not old enough to watch the actual movie they star in (or any of its red band trailers for that matter). Although it’s played for laughs, this promo kinda points out a minor problem with the film — the fact that its intended audience isn’t able to see it! Naturally, this kind of crass ‘Superbad lite’ would probably appeal most to early high schoolers (12 to 15-year-olds), who physically won’t be allowed to purchase a ticket unless they’re accompanied by an adult. And what 14-year-old would want to watch a movie that features f-bombs, sex talk, and molly with their folks?
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky from a script he penned with Lee Eisenberg — the pair having last collaborated on 2011’s Bad Teacher — Good Boys is basically a coming of age version of 2007’s Superbad and follows three sixth-graders who find themselves embarking on a wild neighborhood adventure as they prepare for a long-awaited ‘kissing party.’ A little uneven as a whole (both in terms of narrative and joke-to-laugh ratio), Good Boys still manages to avoid being labeled as more than just blatant rip-off thanks to the energy and charisma of its three young stars.
The aforementioned trio is a group of suburban pals who call themselves ‘The Bean Bag Boys’ for no reason other than the fact that they sometimes sit on bean bags. BFFs since kindergarten, the members of the squad are Jacob Tremblay’s Max, who’s introduced enlarging the boobs on a female orc in a fantasy video game he’s playing in order to masturbate; Brady Noon’s Thor, a talented theatre geek who’s having second thoughts about what signing up for the school production of Rock of Ages might do to his image; and Keith L. Williams’ rule-abiding Lucas, whose parents (scene-stealing turns from Retta and Lil Rel Howery) are about to go through a divorce. Although they’ve been enjoying the carefree nature of pre-teen life up until now, the pains of growing up are starting to sneak up on them.
Things begin to change when Max is beckoned to the ‘cool’ kids’ table one lunchtime where he’s invited to a ‘kissing party’ by a popular boy named Soren (Izaac Wang), who informs Max that his crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) will be there. Since they do everything together, Max asks Soren if Lucas and Thor could come along too, and Soren agrees, even though he thinks that Max’s potty-mouthed pals are a bit too ‘random.’ All’s going well until the grade-schoolers decide to skip class to hang out at Max’s house, seeing as his dad (Will Forte) is away on business. Having never kissed a girl before, the boys attempt to do a bit of misguided ‘research,’ Googling porn, practicing on Max’s parents’ first aid dummy (which is really a blow-up doll) and attempting to spy on the older girls next door — Molly Gordon’s Hannah and Midori Francis’ Lily — with Max’s father’s expensive drone, hoping to catch some girl-on-girl action.
Said girls, however, wind up taking the drone, holding onto it to teach the boys a lesson in respect. This leads to a confrontation on a playground where Thor nabs Hannah’s bag for leverage and later discovers some ecstasy pills (that she’d been planning to have with Lily) stashed inside — they’re hidden in a vitamins container, and there’s a great recurring gag where the kids struggle to open its child-proof lid. And so, our pre-pubescent heroes find themselves in a bit of a sticky situation as they attempt to recover the drone before Max’s dad returns from his trip and realizes it’s missing (grounding Max in the process), whilst figuring out what to do with the girls’ drugs (Lucas thinks that they’re addicts and believes that tossing the goods is the best way to look out for the gals’ well-being).
From there craziness ensues as filmmaker Stupnitsky stages a number of amusing set pieces, the kids getting completely out of their depth, each new vignette showing their limited understanding of the bigger world outside their neighborhood. The highlights are a wild sequence where the boys must cross a busy six-lane freeway; an awkward run-in with a cop, Officer Sacks (Sam Richardson), in a convenient store; a comical brawl in a frat house (one that involves a paint gun); and a great scene where our lil’ protagonists discover Max’s folks’ sex toys and think they’re weapons, using them to protect themselves after they decide to sell an expensive card from the fantasy deck-building game of Magic: The Gathering to a complete stranger for some cash — there’s a great cameo by Stephen Merchant, Fighting with My Family (2019), who plays a nerdy adult collector that constantly insists he’s not a pedophile. If you’ve seen Superbad, you’ll know exactly what to expect here.
Each of the boys has their own reasons for why they want to get to the big shindig; Max will stop at nothing for an opportunity to smooch his cute classmate, while Thor wants to attend so that he can break the beer sipping record after being nicknamed ‘sippy cup’ by some bullies for struggling to gulp down a single mouthful. Lucas, I guess, he just wants to tag along to support his mates.
The third act brings about the usual confrontation where the truth comes to light (Lucas and Thor learn that they weren’t invited to the party and are simply going as Max’s guests), this one, however, ends in actual tears. It’s here where the film gets a little sentimental, with a poignant message about the fickle nature of childhood friendships, and how people can change and grow apart as they get older and start to discover who they really are.
Performances are what you’d expect from a film of this ilk, with newcomer Brady Noon stealing the show (and showcasing his excellent singing talents) as Thor (he’s essentially a younger version of Jonah Hill’s Seth from Superbad), a grade-schooler who curses as if it’s part of his vernacular (although regular 11-year-olds don’t normally swear this much). Just on that, the script by Stupnitsky and Eisenberg makes a few amusing observations on how kids can sometimes use adult language out of context, without knowing the meanings of the words they’re saying — Lucas blurts out the term ‘sensual’ harassment while Max thinks the word nymphomaniac refers to someone who likes starting fires. Jacob Tremblay, Room (2015), is also good as the leader of the tightly knit pack, grounding the film with his usual charm. Then there’s Keith L. Williams, Sadie (2018), who nails it as goodie-two-shoes Lucas, a big kid who loves his mamma and is woke as f*ck — he’s all about consent and anti-bullying, supporting the often-belittled Student Coalition Against Bullying aka S.C.A.B. Either way, all three child stars show promise of a bright acting career ahead of them.
After a moving time jumping montage, where Noon belts out a killer rendition of Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’ and the Bean Bag Boys go their own separate ways, focusing of their individual passions, the movie concludes with a touching epilogue where the boys reunite after being apart for a few months, each a little more grown-up. Coming together at Thor’s house to celebrate his big performance, they make a pact to remain in touch, at least for the big things, once middle school is over. It’s a great finale, and a good open-ended way to revisit the gang when they’re a bit older — I’d love to catch up with the boys in a few years for Good Boys take on High School, then College and possibly beyond. Who knows, this could be the start of a raunchy new french-fries … I mean franchise.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Mr. Movie