While the shock of seeing tweens spewing raunchy language can only get so much comedic mileage, Good Boys manages to keep things consistently entertaining. Mostly because the chemistry between the trio is fantastic. The movie is very episodic as basically the boys are rolling from one crazy madcap event to the next. Also, there’s a bit about learning to grow up which is required in the coming of age genre. Good Boys may only have one repeated trick up it’s sleeve but it’s a good one for 90 minutes.
Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) are losers new to middle school, yet somehow Max scores an invite to an exclusive “kissing party” with the popular kids. Max really wants to go so he can kiss a girl that he likes, Brixlee (Millie Davis), but his buddies are just annoyed. Desperate to learn about kissing, they use a drone to spy on two teenagers, Hannah (Molly Gordon) and Lilly (Midori Francis). The girls are not amused so they steal Max’s drone, which belongs to his dad (Will Forte), so the guys steal the girls backpack, which has a stash of molly in it. Now they to find drones, beer, drugs, and more all so they can make it to the party, but the crazy day might tear the buddies apart.
The movie careens throughout scenes as things keep going wrong. It is a lot of little scenes of the kids dealing with a problem, which in turn causes yet another problem. Sometimes the movie sacrifices physical realism for the sake of a gag, like them running across a highway is implausible but funny. Also, at one point, Max unleashes a paintball gun upon a bunch of jerk frat boys and everyone reacts like it’s real gunfire as the scene is shot like a slow-motion action movie.
What holds this movie together is the core trio and each member is distinct. Tremblay’s Max is sort of the lead and he is surprisingly funny. Considering Tremblay shot to fame as the troubled lead kid in Room he’s been in a lot of fairly maudlin roles afterwards. So Good Boys lets Tremblay be outsized and crazy which he is good at. Probably one of the funniest things he does is overtly loud reactions, with at one point him hollering that his hormones are making him mad.
The kid being named Thor is a decently, unexplained random gag, maybe his parents were Marvel fans, which makes his attitude funnier. While Max is obsessed with meeting the girl, Thor just doesn’t want to look like a dork. This leads to a harrowing scene where he has to take sips of a beer to impress the cool kids which is both kind of troubling yet the movie plays it as sort of inspirational. Williams’ Lucas is probably the funniest of the bunch and his reactions to the illegal things happening are hilariously big.
The three kids have such distinct personalities they realize they might be growing apart. This bit about emotional bond between young men, and the general sense of raunchiness, is what makes Good Boys similar to Superbad. The funny part is that while there is a lot of swearing and adult content, since the kids are so young they don’t exactly know what they’re talking about. Even though they are running around with a stash of molly they just view drugs as bad and have a very moralistic streak, thinking the girls are hopeless addicts. Lucas even tries to hand over the drugs to cop citing that it is a level 1 controlled substance.
The two girls caught up in the exchange just seem irritated by these loudmouth kids who stole their stash. Both Francis and Gordon have some choice reactions, like when Lilly sprints after the kids like the T–1000. The adults in the film are not in it much but when they are it is solid, like Forte as the dad who is kind of happy that is boy is growing up but his reactions just embarrass Max. Lil Rel Howery plays Lucas’ dad who is going through a divorce and he gets in a funny scene where they try to explain it to the kid and just make things worse. The bullies and cool kids are not unique but they make for nicely snooty antagonists.
The movie is never not funny however some bits are not as funny as it thinks it is. Sure, kids swearing and hollering is good for a laugh but there are diminishing returns. Some bits are impressively extreme like in one scene they try to sell a rare collectable card to a weird stranger off the Internet. So, in case he’s a creep, they arm themselves with weapons which, unknowingly to the kids, are adult toys from Thor’s parents. Stephen Merchant plays the guy buying the card and his reaction is gold.
Good Boys straddles a line between a genuinely truthful story about growing up and just going crazy on kids being bad. It mostly works although it does dip a bit too much into the same joke well throughout. While it may have flaws, overall the movie happily breezes by. V
Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams,
Brady Noon and Molly Gordon