In what has been labelled as Superbad for tweens, Good Boys stars child sensation Jacob Tremblay with two relative newcomers in Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams as the Bean Bag Boys, three best friend 12-year-olds who are just starting 6th grade (Year 7 for us UK folk) and all the trials and tribulations that come with the tweenage lifestyle. Produced by relative veterans of the Hollywood comedy scene, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Good Boys might fall into some of the puerile pratfalls associated with a Rogen-Goldberg feature, but it does so with a fair old dollop of heart.
Max (Tremblay), Thor (Noon), and Lucas (Williams) are on the outside of their school society. They’re the three best friends that anyone could have, spending their days on their bikes and their nights on their bean bags – hence their group name – playing card games. When Max is invited to a kissing party by one of the coolest kids in school, the three begin freaking out at the prospect of kissing a girl for the first time in their lives but get caught up in some outlandish shenanigans that involve ditching school, drones, and drugs.
I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable Good Boys was. I’ve made no secret of my current frustration with Hollywood comedies. There are some bright spots (the recent Booksmart and Eighth Grade were fantastic), but on a general level comedy seems to have taken a dip. Not since The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, and Knocked Up graced our cinema screens has there been a consistent run of comedies. Last year gave us Blockers and Game Night, both of which were a step in the right direction for comedy, but to me, they were overhyped purely because they were the first mainstream comedies with some good jokes that we’d had for so long. Good Boys harkens back to the grand old days of yore – 2007 – and gives us a funny, relatable comedy that has laughs throughout, even eliciting multiple belly laughs from me and the audience.
The beauty of Good Boys is in its simplicity. Despite the circuitous route the plot takes, it takes a lot of inspiration from Superbad (one of the funniest comedies of the 21st century in my opinion) and leans heavily on its three leads getting up to no good. Whether it’s awkwardly negotiating with a weirdo on Craigslist, conducting a deal in an underground car park, or just trying to cross a highway, these set-pieces work even better because of the chemistry between Max, Thor, and Lucas. The three of them have great timing to deliver the frequently adult jokes. One of my favourite recurring jokes is their mispronunciation of certain words and phrases (“he’s eye-fucking us!” as the three notice a police officer looking at them).
I was consistently impressed with all three of the leads. Tremblay’s star power is well known by now after his star turn in Lenny Abrahamson’s spectacular Room, but Good Boys allowed Trembley to exercise his comedic chops. He uses his innocence well, but it’s the delivery of the lines that work so well because he doesn’t deliver lines that a 12-year-old wouldn’t conceivably say; the jokes being delivered feel authentic.
I found Brady Noon’s Thor to be the outright funniest character of the three. He’s the most profane, but it spoke to the inner 12-year-old in me that a child saying “fuck” is just funny. He’s Jay from The Inbetweeners, constantly claiming that he’s kissed girls before, he’s tried to drink beer before, and even claims he’s had sex to his babysitter. Thor is also the lead figure in the film’s funniest sequence, a quasi-musical number in the final act. I won’t spoil it, but the visuals here are so funny I genuinely had tears in my eyes and I continued laughing for several minutes afterwards.
The star of the film, and the one given the most to do on a character level is Keith L. Williams’ Lucas. He’s the most innocent of the three, calling upon the school’s anti-bullying force SCAB without any care for its social impact, preaching anti-drug campaigns, and unashamedly telling the truth regardless of the situation. His innocence lends brilliantly to the film’s running jokes (“She’s a total nymphomaniac.” “She starts fires?”), but this innocence, or the loss of it, is the heart of the film. Lucas personifies this as he comes to terms with a dramatic change in his life, and while he develops into someone who puts his friends before himself even if it’ll get him in trouble, he ends the film having changed and matured.
Being 12 is such a curious time. You’re not quite old enough to go out without your parents’ permission yet, but you yearn for that freedom and independence. It’s this bubble that our leads find themselves in, and Good Boys, rather surprisingly, fires some genuine home truths at us before the film is out. With home truths about friendships and the perils of growing up, Max, Thor and Lucas coming to terms with the realisation that nothing is forever will hit surprisingly hard on anyone watching who’s ever been 12 years old. 11-year-olds need not enter. Your time will come.
If I had to pick holes in Good Boys, it’s the predictability of it all and it’s the frequent pratfalls most associated with a Rogen-Goldberg production. There are countless jokes about sex and puerile humour that, for whatever reason, is the only thing that 15-rated or R-rated comedies can make jokes about. I’d be lying if I didn’t find them funny most of the time (“they weren’t kissing, he was licking her asshole” made me laugh far, far too hard), it was all very familiar and relied too heavily on the idea that kids saying adult things is funny. Further, a few of the segues were extremely ham-fisted; they’d go from a bit of slapstick comedy to an emotional beat quite literally from one-line to the next (“My parents are getting a divorce” “…what did you do?”). These are small gripes because of the great time I had with the film; smooth those out and we have a genuinely great comedy on our hands.
Good Boys is the surprise of the summer. It’s laugh out loud funny, relatable to practically everyone, all with a surprising amount of heart underneath it all. Bean Bag Boys for life!
Directed by: Gene Stupnitsky
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon
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