Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Writer: Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, Keith L. Williams, Will Forte, Molly Gordon, Lil Rel Howery, Retta
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rated R | Minutes: 90
Release Date: August 16, 2019
The novelty of hearing kids curse and them getting into all sorts of serious trouble hasn’t worn off. But it can when the comedy doesn’t stick. So much of Gene Stupnitsky‘s Good Boys, relies on its three leads Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, and Keith L. Williams trying to be funny based on cringe-worthy humor. The trouble is, not only does the film have very few laughs, it lacks heart. As such, they squander a talented cast. My full review below.
Max (Tremblay), Thor (Noon), and Lucas (Williams) are the best of friends who do everything together, from having sleepovers to playing Magic: The Gathering. Though they are about to enter the sixth grade, none of them have formed their own identities. They don’t know what’s cool or what it means to be popular after spending years being friends with each other and not interacting with other people outside of their circle. But Max gets a chance to be a part of the cool group when he is invited to a kissing party. He gladly accepts on the condition that he can bring Lucas and Thor, who many believe are random.
Not knowing how to kiss, Max is pressured into using his dad’s drone, something of which is forbidden to touch because it is used strictly for work. When they try to use the drone to spy on his neighbors kissing, things go wrong. Soon, they go from bad to worse as the drone is destroyed, forcing the boys to not only come up with the money to buy a new drone but also make it back in time to return it before Max’s dad arrives home from his trip.
Tonally uneven, with the film failing to make any sort of connection between the heartfelt moments and the raunchy humor. These kids get into all sorts of trouble that puts lives at risk, and yet, they don’t seem to have a full understanding of what they did or the real-life consequences they could suffer. Instead, the film doubles down on the antics. These unfunny hijinks includes them looking at porn, making out with a CPR doll, trying to steal beer in front of a cop in a liquor store, running across a highway, buying drugs for high school girls from a fraternity, or playing around with sex toys. None of it makes any sense.
It’s just once coincidental thing after another. Like a terrible no good very bad day that seems to be getting worse for these three. Think of it as a tween version of Superbad, but replace the pursuit of sex with Max’s wish to kiss his crush. Despite the fact that none of the three know how to kiss, they learn about it in all the wrong ways. They attempt to spy on their neighbors, whom Max believes are nymphomaniacs – he believes nymphomaniacs are people who have sex on land and on sea. They look up porn. They try to kiss a CPR doll, but not before they ask for its consent. Good Boys may feel timely at first, but it seems to make light of a very real situation. Yes, they are kids, but once again, it seems like there are no adults to teach them about the consequences of their actions.
Though much of the comedy – or lack thereof – comes from these antics, the beating heart – or lack thereof – of Good Boys is the theme of friendship. Max, Lucas, and Thor have been best buddies for their juvenile lives. Calling themselves the “Bean Bag Boys,” they have been doing everything together, and go by the “one for all and all for one” mantra. But that fails to come across in the film as each of them are on their own path to maturity. Each of them is only helping Max try to achieve his goal with the impression that they have been invited to the party. When in reality, Max is the only one.
Max is determined to get his first kiss with his crush, Thor wants to be a part of the school musical despite being mocked and ridiculed for not being able to drink beer thus being earning himself the name “Sippy Cup,” and Lucas’s mom and dad are going through a divorce. These subplots are more shoehorned into the characters, and don’t really play a role in the film. Worse, all three subplots just pad the runtime, making it run about 10 to 15 minutes longer than it’s supposed to.
And yet, somehow, the three are able to come to terms with the fact that they are growing up and apart. Although, that lesson comes too late. Additionally, there are some genuinely funny moments, but they are so few and far between that you forget that you are watching a coming of age comedy. Furthermore, the shock for laughs don’t work, accomplishing more of the former than the latter.
Good Boys isn’t an entirely bad film, somewhere within the film lies a comedy that works. But part of the reason why it doesn’t have me sold is because it relies too heavily on style over substance. It favors seeing kids in precarious adult situations – often times that results in them getting injuries or causing some other disaster – over delivering a message about friendship. Maybe it will work for others.