It’s great being a kid. Little to no responsibilities or bills, mistakes usually lead to corny speeches about growing-up and not jail time, social anxiety is a phrase untaught in public schools, and farts are still funny. Looking back on childhood, it’s shocking how much we took it all for granted. So is that why kids today seem like they’re growing up too fast? With kids having smartphones and internet access before their 13th birthday, they’re more vulgar and obsessed with wanting to be treated like adults. On the one hand, it might help to tell these whippersnappers not to grow up too fast and enjoy the days when they can watch cartoons without worrying if they remembered to make their car payment on time. On the other hand, seeing a prepubescent middle schooler misunderstand sex dolls and anal beads makes for surprisingly strong comedy.
In the time-honored tradition of “explicit wackiness” comedies, Good Boys is about a trio of sixth graders going above and beyond to reach the one unobtainable feat: coolness. Max (Jacob Tremblay) has his first crush on a girl who’s not a fantasy game character and gets invited to a party at a cool kid’s house. The problem? His two best friends, singing tough-guy Thor (Brady Noon) and goodie-two-shoes Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are too “random” for the popular kids. But that doesn’t stop “The Beanbag Boys” from trying to learn how to kiss girls or do something that’ll make them cooler. With a drone, a stolen purse and adolescent stupidity in play, shenanigans ensue.
Of course a movie this blunt and unseemly comes courtesy of producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who wrote the current book on school-age R-rated comedy over a decade ago with Superbad. And yes, it’s very easy to write off Good Boys as Superbad Jr. But much like the other Superbad-aping comedy out this year, Booksmart, Good Boys has a touch of heart at its core. Granted it’s not as unique or genuine as the one shared between Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart, given how “The Beanbag Boys” are younger and don’t have as much on their plate. But writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (The Office, Bad Teacher) don’t make the three leads heartless idiots and show a genuine bond between them. The humor here is sophomoric and occasionally low-brow (though there are a few subtle bits that shake things up), but the delivery is so fast and the timing is so spot-on that almost all of it lands. It also helps that every performer here sells the material, despite them barely being teenagers. The kids here commit to every nasty line in the script and their pompous attitude makes for plenty of funny moments in the movie, whether it be because the scenarios are actually funny or it’s hilarious seeing these kids say words they likely have no understanding of. Ironic or not, the humor of Good Boys (and its predictable plot) makes its brisk 89 minutes fly by and doesn’t seem as grating as Rogen and Goldberg’s other hit-and-miss works.
It all lies on the shoulders of the actors, specifically the three leads. The boys have impeccable chemistry together and seem to legitimately enjoy romping around with each other. They’re best when they’re interacting and failing scenarios together, but have their own strengths alone. Tremblay is still in the years of his “cute child actor” phase so he uses his squeaky voice to misunderstand the uses of tampons and MDMA. It’s one note but still has its moments. Noon’s character feels like a subversion of appearances, with his military jacket and spiked hair despite being a theater kid, which is a bit odd considering how Noon sticks with the cliched posing tough-guy troupe though he does play it well. The real star here is Williams who plays the “sissy role” like an absolute pro. He snitches on his friends in fear of getting in the slightest modicum of trouble, he thinks the school anti-bullying squad is the safest form of protection (not humiliation), and his mom is his best friend. Even his girly screams, which he does frequently, rarely cease. Williams sells every bit of emasculation without the slightest bit of exhaustion. It would suck for him to get typecast, but Williams’ commitment to the bit should get him much more work in the future. There are other bit players peppered in, ranging from young upstarts (Midori Francis as a high schooler desperate to take drugs at a Kendrick Lamar concert) to seasoned veterans (Will Forte as Max’s embarrassing father), but Good Boys rides on the chemistry of the leads.
Good Boys seems like the tired and cliched comedy churned out every year or so that can be disposed pretty easily. Somehow someway, it rises to the occasion and makes for a consistently funny comedy. It goes to show how much chemistry and charisma can make a movie, even one starring kids. It doesn’t rewrite the formula or do anything new, but Good Boys knows that comedy only works when you have actors ready to roll with it. Adolescence can be easily dismissed, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fruitful either.