R, 95 mins.
2019, R, 95 mins.
Jacob Tremblay as Max / Keith L. Williams as Lucas / Brady Noon as Thor / )Molly Gordon as Hannah / Will Forte as Max's dad / Retta as Lucas' Mom / LilRel Howery as Lucas' dad / Millie Davis as Brixlee
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky / Written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky
If your idea of a
good time at the cinema is to spend 90 minutes watching a
movie featuring six graders drop frequent f-bombs - and many, many other
naughty words that would make the personas of GOODFELLAS cringe - then
look no further than the paradoxically titled GOOD BOYS.
As for the rest
of you...be afraid...be very afraid.
Okay, sarcasm aside, let me engage in some hard hitting truth bombing on you all.
Hearing kids lash out
vulgarity at such a tender age can be revolting on many levels, yes, but
it's a fact of life. Growing
up on many a Canadian playground I witnessed children cursing insults
with reckless abandon, so, on those levels, there's a reasonable level of
verisimilitude with the young characters that populate GOOD BOYS.
Now, there is an inherent shock value associated with this, and
once you hear these characters spew out ear piercing expletives over and over
again it starts to wear thin very early on, which I think hurts the film
from attaining the same lingering genre staying power of, say, SUPERBAD
or this year's BOOKSMART (also about
young people, albeit a few years older).
Still, GOOD BOYS has an undeniable sweetness to it lurching beneath
its incessant crassness, and the film does a decent job of showcasing boys on
the verge of adolescence going painfully through all of the awkward phases
associated with that life transition.
Okay, maybe the
film is not that sweet, seeing as it opens with a masturbation gag.
boys" (ha!) in question are Max (ROOM'S incredible Jacob Tremblay),
Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (not the God of Thunder, played by
Brady Noon) and their quest to go to a - gasp! - kissing party so that Max
can lock lips with the girl of his dreams in Brixlee (Millie Davis).
There's one big problem: none of these lads have any idea how to
get to first base with the ladies. They
do know (in a rather amusing recurring reference that feels very much of
our time) that they have to get a girl's "consent" before they
plant one on them, so at least they're gentlemen about that.
The boys, naturally enough, Google search kissing, which
inadvertently takes them to a porn site (eeeeeewww!), which leads to
them spying on their older neighbor in Hannah (Molly Gordon) when she's
kissing her own boyfriend to learn the ropes.
Of course, the boys take the most ridiculously complicated route to
doing this by stealing Max's dad's (Will Forte) prized never-touch-it-ever
toy drone to fly by Hannah's place for some reconnaissance.
Gee, I wonder if this drone will get trashed at some point in this
Max and the gang
are all facing social pressures beyond making it with a girl and being, as
a result, cool with the cool kids. Max
is traumatized by the notion of being grounded by his overprotective
father for the slightest indiscretion, whereas Lucas is struggling with
his parent divorcing. Thor
seems to face the constant pressure of feeling liked and accepted and
being with the "in" crowd, not to mention that he a passion for
singing and desperately wants to win a coveted role in the school's
production of ROCK OF AGES. Part
of what helps segregate GOOD BOYS from a very crowded pack of other
R-rated coming of age/school comedies is that it tries to inject some
personality in these child characters and make them empathetically vulnerable,
despite their verbal coarseness.
Of course, this
is aided considerably by the talented trio on screen here, all of whom do
a stellar job of giving their respective roles some much needed layered
dimension. Tremblay's Max is
sort of the de facto leader of the "Bean Bag Boys" group and
seems both atypically mature, yet naive about the world.
Williams' Lucas gets some of the film's biggest laughs and just how
hyper honest he is at the most inopportune of moments (he's aggressively
law abiding to the point of being hysterical).
Noon is sort of the pint sized Jonah Hill-type of the group, one
who's trash talking antics masks many hidden insecurities.
The chemistry between these actors is palpable throughout and
they're always believable as on-screen pals that you feel have been
together since kindergarten. I
also liked the fact that GOOD BOYS manages to find time to deal with the
all too crucial and problematic time in children's lives when growing
older potentially means growing apart from your elementary school BFFs as
you begin to pursue other ventures, and the nagging uncertainties of
what's to come for Max and company causes a lot of unease in them.
But, let's be
clear, GOOD BOYS has an awful lot of scatological shenanigans that more
than earns this film's hard R rating.
Much of the humor that's generated in the film is at the amusing expense of the children's sometimes limitless inexperience about the world
in general. Outside of Google
searching smooching advice netting horrible results, the kids decide to
practice their lip locking technique on what they think is a family first aid doll, which, just by
looking at it with adult eyes, it's pretty clear that it's a sex toy with
a giant O shaped mouth (Max
is flustered when he discovers a hair in it).
Then there's later obligatory scenes involving sipping beer (not
fully drinking it) and a very dangerous choice involving crossing a very
jam packed freeway. The kids
even find themselves, at one key point, in a frat house looking to secure drugs
for Hannah and her friend, which culminates with a lot of violence
unleashed via a smuggled in paint gun.
I left my screening of GOOD BOYS asking perhaps far too many logical
questions about its sometimes wonky scripting, mostly on a level of basic
consistency. There are times
when the kids here act authentically...well...childish and misinformed...but then there are other times when they all seem impossibly
wise beyond their years about other matters (and the screenplay flips
flops between both extremes when it's deemed convenient).
When one starts to think about it, these boys know about the social
importance of consent, but have no idea how sex or kissing works despite
cracking jokes about intercourse.
I think there's something endearing about the levels of curiosity
that boys have about sexuality and how much they fail at seeking out
information about it on their own (utilizing sex toys as weapons in a play
fight, for example), but the trio here occasional traverses between
being wise and imbecilic a bit too casually to feel credible.
Then there's the whole idea of basing an adult rated comedy about young boys swearing and acting badly, and, as mentioned, this is initially funny, but starts to become distracting noise as the film tries to stretch it out to 90 minutes. And there will certainly be many unsuspecting viewers going into GOOD BOYS that will come out of it shell shocked by the film's unrelenting lewdness involving pre-pubescent boys. Even though I'm no cinematic prude and typically isn't bothered by such material, even I must concede that hearing Jacob Tremblay et al screaming out acid tongued verbal assaults became more numbing than entertaining for me after awhile. I'm a bit on the recommendation fence for GOOD BOYS, mostly because I don't think it's as smartly written as this year's BOOKSMART or has the same level of perceptive insight as last year's EIGHTH GRADE. Still, GOOD BOYS manages to mostly balance offensive tastelessness and sincerity fairly well, and the film gives us a reason to care for these swearing machines.
Plus, GOOD BOYS is the only film in the history of the medium to have a child hilariously scream out at a bum "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU LOOKING AT, GANDOLF?!"