Having been inundated with the same terrible advertisements everyone else has, I fully expected Good Boys to be an unfunny, misguided crude comedy similar to last August’s Happytime Murders. It seemed like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea that would rely on cheap lowest-common-denominator humor with the punchline being that it’s done by kids. Worst case it seemed like we were staring down the barrel of another sociopathic coming of age tale a la Project X.
Fortunately, Good Boys avoids that fate.
The comparisons to Superbad (mostly due to the shared producers) are pretty apt, as it navigates similar territory structurally, thematically, and tonally. This time around, it’s the Bean Bag Boys (The Book of Henry‘s1 Jacob Tremblay’s Max, Brady Noon’s Thor, and Keith L. Williams’ Lucas) whose goal is to attend a party being thrown by the popular kids in sixth grade.This all comes at a turning point in each of their lives as they, like all tweens, are trying to figure out who they are and their identities. Max likes girls and is desperate to kiss his crush at the party, Thor loves to sing but is afraid it makes him uncool, and Lucas just wants everything to stay the same forever, which amplified by his parents impending divorce. Attending this party is a big deal for all three of them, and they’ll buy drugs, sip beers, and sell sex dolls in order to get there.
As I mentioned, it’s essentially an aged-down version of Superbad. That film worked because of its clever writing and an insanely stacked cast of characters. Its material can only thrive if the predictably raunchy jokes are funny and well composed, the leads are charming, and the characters are well rounded and likable. Good Boys achieves all three, managing to wring plenty of laughter out of some obvious and naughty setups, but with a streak of sweetness underlying all of it. The film makes you actually care about Max, Thor and Lucas, and it’s impossible not to empathize with their life changes and feel for them as they face the inevitable distance that can grow in a friendship at that age.
Tremblay is the obvious draw, having become Hollywood’s “it” child actor after his breakout role in Room. He’s as exceptional as ever, with an inherent innocence that imbues everything he does and mining it to great effect. He, Noon, and Williams have an impressive chemistry together for such a young group of actors, and the film is at its best when the three are bouncing off each other. They’re aided by a script that gives them all distinct personalities and finds a way to root most of the film’s jokes in their characters. There’s still some low hanging fruit in the humor—it’s very original and funny to have 11 year olds discover porn and sex toys, yes indeed—but the film shines when the trio get material that feels unique to their personalities, like Lucas’s obsessive anti-drug campaigning or Max’s desperate desire to figure out how to kiss.
Don’t let the dire advertising campaign fool you: Good Boys is, for lack of a better word, good. It’s not groundbreaking, nor is it overly original, but it brings enough heart to counterbalance the crude humor. What matters most, though, is that Good Boys is absolutely hilarious from start to finish, eliciting uproarious laughter throughout. And, for a comedy, funny tends to be enough.