Good Boys, 2019.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky.
Starring Jacob Tremblay, Molly Gordon, Will Forte, Retta, LilRel Howery, Millie Davis, Midori Francis, Enid-Raye Adams, Brady Noon, Chance Hurstfield, and Keith L. Williams.
Three sixth grade boys ditch school and embark on an epic journey while carrying accidentally stolen drugs, being hunted by teenage girls, and trying to make their way home in time for a long-awaited party.
There comes a point where one of this best friends trio comprised of sixth-graders starts hurriedly recounting the insanity of the day to his parents as they look on perplexed. It’s a funny moment that also serves as a quick reminder of how something as inquisitively innocent as learning how to kiss a girl in preparation for a party snowballed into a comedy of errors and questionable choices. Bottling up every one of those terrible decisions into a 30-second rant sure is one way to put zaniness and disbelief into perspective, also doubling as a dare to the audience if they are ready for more crude shenanigans.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (making his directorial debut and also serving as a co-writer alongside Lee Eisenberg), Good Boys is all about the laughs, and the script doesn’t really care if it abandons believability to get there. There’s a scene where a character leaves the neighborhood to drive somewhere presumably far, meanwhile our titular good boys are off adding to their problems from scene to scene, using their bikes for transportation. Somehow, the person that has, by now, been driving for a long time (it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how long considering editing and time awareness is not one of the film’s strong points) ends up back in the movie to become a punchline for a set-piece. It makes for a great joke, but I’ll be damned if it makes any sense.
The same goes for a pair of older high school teenagers that become entangled into the ongoing shenanigans of the Beanbag Boys (that’s what they call themselves). Max (Jacob Tremblay, who as young as he is, still might be the biggest name here, and above all else is certainly the most talented performer aboard the project) takes out his father’s technologically advanced work drone (going against direct orders) while he is off on a business trip to spy on the two girls that live nearby. One of them supposedly has a boyfriend and is rumored to be highly sexually active (although if there’s one thing you learn early on in this movie, it’s to never believe any secondhand knowledge from these children), making her a good target for studying kissing.
Without spoiling much, the girls come into the possession of the drone as the boys end up with their bottle of Molly pills, and it sets the stage for a number of amusing interactions, but the movie also tells us so many different things about these girls that don’t line up. First, they are adamant to leave early in the morning traveling seemingly somewhere out-of-the-way to make it to a concert in time, then they nonchalantly devise a plan to get their drugs back, taking their sweet time to get to the Kendrick Lamarr concert they are excited about. The logistics of how they travel or have to travel and still do things while also coming back into the movie to do other things is enough to fry your brain from making sense of it, but simultaneously not that big of a deal because, again, the movie is too damn funny to get too caught up on such distracting issues. Still, a little urgency would have been nice.
In that respect, it’s clear that this is an amateurishly crafted movie, but also one that gets the most out of its cast members and situational humor. Max is both too young to understand love and is a hopeless romantic, having his heart set on kissing who he believes to be his future wife at the party. It’s cringe yet sweet; the characters are all so likable that they successfully transport audiences back into thinking about their own mischievous childhoods and misguided approaches to some circumstances (let’s face it, most of us have also done dumb shit when we were young, which adds to why the movie is so funny).
Good Boys is Superbad with elementary kids, no doubt about it, but it’s also a coming-of-teenage journey that celebrates friendship. It has its heart so aligned in the right place that I actually do recommend parents take their young children to see the movie, R-rating and all; adults will laugh while children will take worthwhile messages away from the experience that dozens of animated movies fail to deliver feeling phony. If you see a trailer for this movie and think there is no way your similarly aged children have likewise behavior, then you’re probably not paying attention enough.
Max is always joined by his two best friends Thor and Lucas; the latter goes through the traditional be yourself character arc, setting aside things he enjoys like making use of his gifted voice to audition for Rock of Ages in order to focus on cosmetic changes and building up alcohol tolerance to fit in with the cool kids. However, I stick to what I said; underneath the humor of it all that adults will find, there is a brand of peer pressure and bullying on display here that is authentic, allowing the film’s messages to ring true for anyone within age proximity. Lucas is the ultimate dork in this band of dorks, unable to tell a lie, a stickler for the rules, and almost acts as the moral compass for the group whenever things spiral too far out of control. All three get scenes to shine and deliver an equal amount of laughs, playing off of each other one wonderfully with camaraderie.
Even if it is just an R-rated approach to family-friendly themes we see trotted out once every few months, Good Boys have some truly icky raunchy humor going for it, the likes of which have never been seen before. This movie finds so many inappropriate uses for sex toys between the children that it’s honestly kind of stunning that it got past the MPAA. Misunderstandings aside, it’s also a 90-minute reminder that boys will be boys, but is also proof that there can be progressive thinking behind that belief system. The title isn’t a pun; they may get involved in unsavory situations, but these are good boys. Being naughty has never felt so innocent.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com