Good Boys only periodically shines, but it has a surprising heart at its core.
I should begin by disclosing that I’m usually a complete mark for these Point Grey productions from long-time collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Their dependable brand of sneakily sentimental bro-humor tends to hit a particular comedy sweet-spot for me, and though they’ve definitely put out a few clunkers (it’s hard to defend Sausage Party or Game Over, Man!), I have a soft spot for the surprisingly sharp material in movies like Neighbors, The Night Before, or even last year’s Blockers. That said, the joke of the duo’s newest production Good Boys, that three impressionable tweens say the f-word a lot and are exposed to those naughty grown-up things like drugs and sex, well… it felt pretty tired before the movie even hit cinema screens, and I was prepped for a misfire. Fortunately, though it’s never able to fire on all cylinders to be a complete success, there’s enough these boys have to offer to make it a passable time-waster.
Written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, and directed by the former, Good Boys follows the mishaps of three newly-minted sixth graders: Max (Jacob Tremblay), for all intents and purposes the straight-man (boy) of the group, Thor (Brady Noon), who you may assume to be the delinquent but has a surprising soft-spot, and Lucas (Keith L. Williams), the one who just wants to stay out of trouble and play his favorite card game with his childhood friends. The actual plot is decidedly convoluted, but the main point is that these three rascals need to get to a party thrown by their peers (where there will be kissing), and all goes haywire when Max’s father’s drone is stolen by a couple of teenage girls, and the boys in return steal their ecstasy. From there, you know, crazy shenanigans and mischief ensue.
The main problem with Good Boys is the one that’s been telegraphed via the marketing: it’s pretty much one joke. I’m not saying I’m above laughing at some 11-year-olds saying curse words, or googling “****” and being horrified at the results, but some of the expectedly sophomoric passages of the film can get just a tad tiresome when running through 90 minutes of them. The film also never really finds a steady rhythm for its jokes; it feels surprisingly shoddily cobbled together in terms of editing and there’s never a strong flow established to make many jokes land properly. There weren’t too many people at my showing, but I couldn’t help but note how few jokes actually got an audible response. It’s a film that’s only truly funny intermittently when it’s able to hit a nice stride for a few minutes at a time, even with winning, adorable performances from all three leads. However, there’s something to be said for how endearing it feels.
Though this is a movie about young kids getting into some bad situations, the naivety and innocence of these boys are never lost on the film. It doesn’t play the boys’ actions as a result of them perhaps not being as wholesome as they look, but rather that these are genuinely decent kids who are simply trying to grow up too fast in an attempt to keep up with a world that they feel encourages them to behave this way. The funniest and most effective segments are the ones that exhibit the boys’ inclination to follow the rules or respect the boundaries of others, such as a scene where they refuse to return the drugs to the teen girls because of how drugs ruin lives or the recurring bit about how you need to ensure consent before kissing a girl. It also follows in the footsteps of what feels like this film’s older (better) cousin Superbad in its portrayal of codependent male friendship, and how growing up doesn’t have to mean growing apart. There’s a real beating heart at the center of a raunch-fest that’s otherwise purely satisfactory, ultimately making this a comedy that, while sporadic, is sufficiently entertaining all the same.