Equal parts profane and sweet, Seth Rogen’s voice is channeled through 12-year-old actors with humor and shock value.
To some viewers this rude and crude comedy, placing four-letter words and awkward sexual language into the mouths of middle-schoolers, will be too much to bear. But if you think about it with nostalgic reflection, this comic fantasy is probably pretty close to reality. Middle school boys experiment as much with dirty words as they do with their bodies. Parents can only hope that the words of caution, they’re obligated to utter, ring in the little one’s ears as the boys take risks and try adult things on. And like my parents said when I was little, “they grow up so fast these days.”
Where a film like last year’s “Eighth Grade” nailed that experience, a movie like “Good Boys” gets so much of the sixth grade right too. Whether it hangs together as well as “Eighth Grade” is very much up for debate, and comparing that film to this one is unfair—“Good Boys” is pure slapstick in the “Superbad” mold.
When Max (Jacob Tremblay) is invited to a “kissing party,” he convinces the cool kid in charge to permit him to bring along his best pals—Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams). The threesome have been friends since they were in kindergarten and have given themselves a nickname: “the beanbag boys.” This corny name is related to the fact that they all have beanbags that they lounge upon during sleepovers.
Before they can attend a “kissing party,” the beanbag boys have to get a little kissing education. This leads them to the Internet, of course, and that proves to be too itchy. Their useless search queries are the product of unworldliness. Much of the fun of the dialogue is in how the boys make use of curse words and other language. They don’t know how to cuss and only have a limited knowledge of sex. Their clumsy exchanges early when discussing one parent’s collection of sex toys is a funny highlight. It also makes for some uncomfortable, cringe-worthy viewing.
Abandoning the web, these good boys decide to use Max’s father’s prized drone to spy on the neighbor girls and learn about kissing that way. Of course, things go badly, and in the process, the beanbaggers come into possession of the girl’s stash of drugs and the girls hold the drone hostage until that stash is safely returned. The movie then turns into a day-long journey from house-to-house and eventually to a local mall.
Inane and nonsensical easily defines the plot here. But given the ages of everyone involved, the preposterous actions of the characters are somewhat explainable. Unlike “Eighth Grade,” “Good Boys” isn’t interested in high drama. Although the relationship between the beanbag boys is genuine and grounded, the situations get ever more ridiculous.
The three leads are entertaining as the foul-mouthed youngsters. Tremblay, who has consistently delivered good work (see “Room,” for example), shines as the fresh-faced protagonist. Because the kid actors are the right age, innocent reactions to adult situations are easily sold. Williams is a standout, as the bigger dude in the threesome, who is also the most tender-hearted. When Williams sheds tears, it’s infectious. However, because these children are expected to act while using an array of disturbing props, like sexual devices (anal beads play a big role, along with a sex doll), it will have some parents squirming. Even though the performers are very young, this is not a film for your 12-year-old.
And the constant stream of expletives and zany, crude slapstick does get a little repetitive, slowing the narrative, as the film approaches the one hour mark. Once the giggles associated with the cursing begins to wear off, “Good Boys” loses some of its comedic punch. But given the short running time, the early fun is enough to carry the movie through to its sweet and good-hearted conclusion.
Not safe for kids, “Good Boys” targets young adults as producers Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Evan Goldberg project their voices and personalities into the middle school setting. It’s funny, but the laughs are largely more shocking than insightful.