Good Boys (2019)

11 Sep

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Don’t you boys look cute! Everybody’s in the basement…I don’t even want to know what’s going on down there!” states a possibly-intoxicated mother who cheerfully welcomes our three prepubescent main characters to her equally-preadolescent son’s “kissing party.”

That’s one of many delightfully satirical touches added to “Good Boys,” a Superbad-inspired comedy that is made for adults to look back on their idiotic youthful days. (If the film’s clever poster and DVD/Blu-Ray cover design indicates anything, it’s that this film is definitely not for their kids.) All the ingredients for a teenage comedy are here (big party, sexual talk, drugs, violence, lots and lots of hijinks)…but the protagonists of “Good Boys” are not teens–they’re “tweens” (“preadolescents”).

And yes, I did say the film was inspired by “Superbad,” so it’s no surprise to see “Superbad” creators Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg’s names in the credits. (They co-produced it.)

When you’re a pre-teen, there’s a lot to figure out about life and about yourself. And it’s not pleasant–especially when everyone else claims to know more about “the facts of life” than you. We’ve seen this material made for dramatic purposes (Eighth Grade), but “Good Boys” is a brash, offensive, and very funny comedy about three young boys who get into all sorts of trouble along their journey to be cool and kiss the girl. Thankfully, they’re not following the course of most teen movies and looking to get laid–these are little kids, after all, so they’re only naive enough to misunderstand many of the jokes they say and the, um, let’s say “objects” they come across. (Like I said, this will offend some people–art is not safe and neither is comedy, and there are worse things these kids could be doing.) In the end (spoilers, I guess), they learn very little about what they thought they should know and instead understand that they have each other, which gets friends through the toughest times at that tender age of 10-12.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get the emotionally resonant portion of this coming-of-age story, whatever–the film is really f***ing funny, and the funniest moments come not just from what these little sh*ts get themselves into but also from relating to them because of similar incidents in your youth.

Er…hopefully not the extreme scenes such as the one in which the kids cross a busy freeway–do not try that in real life, ever.

Our lead characters are three sixth-graders–Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams). They’re all good kids who want to be “bad”–much like the “South Park” characters, they swear up a storm and talk about things they know nothing about because they think that makes them “adult.” (All three young actors play off each other wonderfully–you buy them as real friends.) When Max earns the respect of a “cool kid” named Salen (Izaac Wang), by taking a swig (or, in the kids’ minds, a “sip”) of beer at the local skate park, he also gains an invitation to Salen’s party. Sounds great, but wait…it’s a kissing party! And Max has a crush on a pretty girl who is also attending the party! This is his chance! But he doesn’t know how to kiss! What will he do!?

For a poor timid good kid like Max, this is as dramatic as his life gets. (His friends have different issues–Lucas’ parents are divorcing and the wannabe-tough kid Thor is insecure about his musical talents.)

Max, with the help of Thor and Lucas, wants to learn how to “prepare” for the party, and naturally, everything goes wrong. They search the Internet to learn how to kiss, which results in watching porn, which confuses them more. But it’s OK–one of the boys’ parents has a “CPR doll” they can practice with… (Oh yeah, this movie goes there–it walks that fine line and maintains a certain edge in the process. Just wait until you see the “necklace” that Max wants to give to his crush.)

Max is aware of his neighbor’s sexual activity–or rather, he heard she’s a “nymphomaniac.” (What’s that, one of the boys asks? “It means she can have sex on both land and sea.”) Using his father’s forbidden drone (his dad’s out of town), Max, Thor, and Lucas spy on the neighbor, a teenage girl named Hannah (Molly Gordon), but things don’t go as planned. Not only does Hannah break up with her boyfriend Benji (Josh Karras), which means no kissing is witnessed, but also the drone is caught by Hannah and her friend Lily (Midori Francis).

If Max’s dad (a very funny Will Forte) gets home and finds his drone missing or damaged in any way, Max is grounded and unable to go to the party. So, the boys go through desperate measures to one-up the “old girls” and solve this dilemma. And thus, hijinks ensue, involving a violent brawl at a frat house, a nervous encounter with a tired cop who just wants to go home, and yes, a race across a 12-lane freeway (complete with a pretty hilarious payoff).

Oh, and Lucas dislocates his shoulder during a bike chase. (That scene was shown in the trailer and didn’t sell me on seeing the movie upon initial release–I don’t like seeing kids getting hurt. But hey, one of my new favorite movies shows a kid falling off a roof and bleeding from his head, so I thought I’d take a chance with this comedy.)

Lots of hijinks, lots of raunchy dialogue from kids who don’t know sh*t…and yet, somewhere in the midst of this 89-minute crazy R-rated comedy, there’s room for heart (much like “Superbad” and Booksmart). What helps is the overall good nature of the three kids, all played by appealing young actors. (Plus, it’s fun to hear the R-rated dialogue come out of Jacob Tremblay, best known for roles that are more innocent, to put it lightly.) “Good Boys” was directed and co-written by Gene Stupnitsky, who recalls the fears and insecurities of being that young and naive and exaggerates them for ultimate comedic effect. The film is at its funniest when the kids misunderstand certain behaviors (and devices) and at its warmest when they have to say to each other, “F*** this,” and realize more important things such as being themselves.

The latter also has many priceless lines of dialogue, such as near the end, when Max stands up to a bully by saying…well, I won’t give it away here. “Good Boys” is a hilarious gem.

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