Good Boys | Gene Stupnitsky | August 16, 2019
Do you remember your first kiss? Of course you do. It’s a big moment in every person’s life, the sort of life event that can seem like life or death when you’re a hormone-driven young person trying to get that pesky first kiss over and done with. This is the driving force for Good Boys, the new film from first-time feature director Gene Stupnitsky, based on a script he co-wrote with Lee Eisenberg.
When 12-year-old Max (Jacob Tremblay) scores an invite to a kissing party held at the house of “cool kid” Soren (Izaac Wang), he’s happy because he knows that his crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) will be there too. Max is the only one invited, but he convinces Soren to reluctantly invite his best friends Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) – the self-dubbed Beanbag Boys trio.
They’re all excited to score the invite to the kissing party but become nervous wrecks when reality sets in and they realize that none of them know how to kiss. They decide they can use the drone owned by Max’s dad (Will Forte), which he explicitly tells him not to touch, to spy in the backyard of a few teenagers (played by Midori Francis, Booksmart‘s Molly Gordon, and Josh Caras) who they presume are swapping enough spit to get an idea of what to do. Naturally, things go ridiculously wrong and the teens capture the drone. Max, scared of what his dad will do when he finds out his drone is gone (mainly telling all their parents and getting them grounded), leads Thor and Lucas on a mission to do whatever it takes to make sure they get the drone back, while also leaving time to get to the kissing party.
Good Boys may star middle schoolers, but it is very much a hard R-rated comedic escapade. Superbad scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are just two of the film’s producers, which should give you a feel for what you’re in for. A lazy assessment would be to call this a mix of Superbad and Neighbors starring young kids and, really, you’re not far off. The kids endure a day of whacky hijinx which includes trying to figure out how to kiss (via porn clips and with a “CPR” sex doll), crossing a highway a la Frogger, and fighting a frat house in order to get a bunch of MDMA. As long as you’re game to watch potty-mouthed kids very much earn that R rating and lose their innocence 100 times over along the way, you should find plenty of humor in all their whacky encounters (including a meeting with Stephen Merchant’s sketchy perv character, as well as a recurring plot point with Williams’ parents, played by comedians Lil Rey Howrey (Get Out) and Retta).
There are plenty of individual scenes and humorous moments that truly shine here, with some sticking out more than others. The front half of Good Boys is a lighter and stronger affair as we get to know the boys and see how they work together to figure out how they are going to save their hides. However, the second half suffers a bit under the weight of the emotional conflict beats that feel rather shoehorned in, similar to how dramatic aspects in other buddy comedies often feel.
Yet it’s hard to argue with the chemistry shared between the young three leads. Tremblay has already made a name for himself with strong dramatic showings (Room), and he gets to flex his comedic muscle here and does so in equally winning fashion. Equally likable and hilarious are the performances from both Noon and Williams, who shine in their own way.
We’ve gotten our fair share of raunchy coming of age tales from the vantage point of high school and college students, more so in the years since Superbad (which was by no means the first raunchy high school comedy), so it was fun to see a slightly more innocent vantage point get a not-so-innocent approach that still managed to find some elements of heart and have something to say about the friendships we make early on and how they sometimes get stronger over time, but often fade. It’s just too bad that these elements, which are hinted at towards the end aren’t a bit stronger, which would have elevated this enjoyable but light comedy.