Childhood innocence clashes with R-rated raunch in randy coming-of-age comedy
Starring Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon & Keith L. Williams
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky
The little boys in Good Boys aren’t bad boys—but boy, do they ever get into some wickedly funny stuff!
But be prepared—this is no TV after-school special. Co-produced by Seth Rogen, and with a writer-producer pedigree that includes Superbad, Neighbors and Sausage Party, this R-rated romp is a randy coming-of-age comedy about a trio of 12-year-old best friends who find their first couple of weeks of sixth grade a wild ride of f-bombs, sex toys and illegal drugs.
And no, I never thought I’d be writing a sentence that strings together “comedy,” “12-year-old,” “f-bombs,” “sex toys,” and “illegal drugs.”
It all revolves around Max (Jacob Tremblay, from Room and Wonder), who has a crush on a fellow student, Brixlee (Millie Davis, who played Gemma on TV’s Orphan Black, and now appears on the PBS kids’ series Odd Squad). When one of the coolest kids in Max’s class, Soren (Izaac Wang), invites him to a “kissing party” at his house, Max knows he has to be there—especially when he finds out Brixlee will be there, too.
But first he and his friends, Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams), have to learn how to kiss. This sets them off on a frantic suburban scavenger hunt that involves internet porn; a drone; spying on two older neighbor girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis); accidentally coming into possession of someone else’s stash of the drug molly; an escape from a frat house; a mad dash across a busy freeway; and a close call with a cop.
Much of the scabrous humor involves the comedic clash of the kids’ basic decency and naiveté with the craziness and debauchery of things they encounter. Their young lives are too sheltered to know the difference between nymphomaniac and pyromaniac, or what, exactly, Thor’s parents’ extensive stash of “marital aids” are supposed to be. They think a sex doll is a (very lifelike!) CPR dummy. And why not use an, ahem, erotic stimulation aid as weapon, or another as a necklace? It sure looks like one!
At some point, the novelty and the shock of watching kids fumble around in a grownup—sometimes smutty—world, proving they can be just as potty-mouthed as anyone else, wears a little thin. No one will be surprised, after all, that 12-year-olds can curse, swill beer or discover their parents have sex. But the witty script by writers Lee Eisenberg and first-time director Gene Stupnitsky, who also teamed up for the movies Bad Teacher and Year One, does make their young characters feel genuine. (How ironic that none of them are old enough to see their own movie without their parents.)
The three friends, who call themselves the Beanbag Boys, have been inseparable since kindergarten. The movie shows how adolescence is a time of shifting sand, when even the strongest of childhood bonds can be tested as interests begin to change, hormones start to boil and bubble and peer pressures push and pull. Thor, an impressive singer and budding theater geek, puts his plans to audition for the school musical on hold after a group of other kids make fun of him. The super-sensitive Lucas, who wears his feelings painfully close to the surface, is having trouble dealing with the divorce of his parents (Lil Rel Howery and Retta). And Max has to break it to his besties that he’s moved on to more “grownup” things, like girls, while they’re still into role-playing games and kid stuff.
Good Boys is a movie where childhood innocence—a game of Spin the Bottle, bike rides through a sprinkler, the camaraderie of young friendship—intersects with a profane punch of wild, rollicking, ribald comedy, purified with the sunshine of genuine sweetness. These Good Boys really are good boys.
After one tiff threatens to pull the Beanbag Boys apart, Lucas’ mom tells him about a hermit crab he once owned, and how crabs outgrow their shells and have to find new ones. The Beanbag Boys, she tells Lucas, are growing up, and are going to have to find new, bigger shells.
Is your shell big enough for a comedy about tweens, f-bombs, molly and sex toys? If so, Good Boys is a good one.
In theaters Aug. 16, 2019