Courtesy of Universal
We’ve all been there.
Those awkward transitioning middle school years where our body undergoes a slew of changes and perhaps we start to find our true self identity. Though it might not be as raunchy as the depictions in the new Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg hard R produced comedy “Good Boys” - which could be described as a live action “South Park” film with all the F bombs among children - somehow or another makes most of this relatable if not downright hilarious. Full disclosure: DO NOT take your middle schooler to see this.
From the moment Jacob Tremblay’s character drops his first expletive and starts to pleasure himself to a female “World of Warcraft” avatar with a big upper chest, the underlying appeal of this film starts to come full circle. Co-written and directed by longtime “The Office” scribe Gene Stupnitsky with Lee Eisenberg, “Good Boys” tackles familiar beats of a story about neighborhood boys who just want to have fun. However, that formula has never centered on young sprouts just starting puberty. It’s a refreshing concept that sees three middle schoolers tossed into crazy, and mostly unbelievable circumstances, as they vie to attend a popular kids after school party where there will, in fact, be kissing.
The trio of pals (or, as they dubbed themselves, “The Beanbag Boys” for no other reason than they like beanbags) consists of the level headed Max (Trembey), the egotistical Thor (a promising Brady Noon) and the scene stealing Lucas (Keith L Williams). Each have their own agenda and conflicts, Max wants to fit in with the cool kids and lock eyes with his wannabe lover; Thor possess musical theatre aspirations and wants the lead in the school’s upcoming production of “Rock of Ages;” and the dopey Lucas is struggling with his parents (which includes Lil Rel Howery and Retta) impending divorce and the constant need to tell the truth.
So don’t be fooled, underneath all the R rated potty mouth tomfoolery, “Good Boys” has a heart and deals with honest issues. Hell, even sixth graders in this film understand how important it is to have consent before kissing someone, which was one of the more appealing and surprising aspects of the screenplay.
The boys are only starting to understand the emotional challenges that come from growing up, and currently thrive off hanging out every day, yet their dynamic gets tested when Max starts crushing on the cute girl in his class, and desperately wants to attend a party where spin the bottle (with consent!) will take place. Of course, Max has to ask his mom and get permission first.
To prep, the boys skip school to hang out at Max’s house while his dad (Will Forte) is on a work trip, and Google what’s the correct way to kiss someone. Ideally, they stumble across some explicit websites, and the reactions among the three boys is priceless. They even attempt to practice with Max’s parents’ sex doll (in their eyes, it’s used for CPR practice) and try to spy on a pair of next-door teens (Midori Frances and Molly Gordon) in the hopes that either of them lock lips. The kicker is Max uses his dad’s expensive drone, and when the girls manage to hold the device hostage, things start to get real sticky.
In the midst of a dramatic showdown, Thor ends up stealing one of the girl’s purses and snaggs “vitamins” without knowing he’s actually stolen the molly they planned to take later. Not that either of these tykes know what that drug actually is, but Lucas assumes their addicts and, thoughtfully, wants to help them on the path to recovery.
What then begins as a normal playground trade of “vitamins” for drones sprawls into an all out journey across town, landing the boys into some perilous situations. Chief among them, crossing an insanely busy freeway causing a massive pileup, and forging a paintball crusade on a group of unsuspecting frat bros in an effort to secure more drugs.
It’s the type of cartoonish brawls that don’t always lands on their mark, as the novelty of seeing middle schoolers cursing each other only goes so far, but the filmmakers find common ground with trying to understand how exactly these kids would behave in these circumstances. Even if the third act runs circles around itself, give credit to the producers for not being afraid of letting “Good Boys” get emotional.
The 12 year-old Tremblay has had no trouble finding roles that exploit his range since his debut in “Room,” and “Good Boys” shows just how capable he is to be the head of a game ensemble. Then again, his on-screen co-stars, Williams and Noon, can handle their own and present an affable likability that hints at the grander talent on display, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them pop up in more projects in the next few years.
They - along with that classic Rogen/Goldberg charm - help make “Good Boys” a snappy comedy that strategically pokes fun at our pubescent years, while still maintaining an overall positive attitude. It’s hard to pinpoint just exactly who the film is for, as it’s too vulgar for kids who will likely try to sneak in to see it anyway, and though adults might chuckle at some of the more rowdy shenanigans (I personally got a kick out of the tween's arming themselves with sex toys for weapons) the childish humor with a naughty tinge could be off putting.
All in all, it goes without saying, but some parental discretion is advised.