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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Good Boys

Good Boys is being advertised as a raunchy comedy about three 12-year-old boys who drop "F-bombs" in their dialogue like they are being paid by the amount of times they say it, and get involved in situations involving sex toys, drugs and alcohol.  Having seen it, I can definitely say that it lives up to that reputation.  But, it's also surprisingly sharp and wise, both in its humor and in its depiction of what it's like to be at that "tween" age.  It's also kind of sweet and likable, without going all soft and gooey, like a lot of "edgy" comedies often do.

The kids are innocents who have been plopped into a Hard-R comedy, and that's part of the fun.  They talk about adult things, but often don't know what they're talking about in the first place.  This is funny, and very true to boys of the age.  At one point, one of the kids says that a nymphomaniac is someone "who has sex on both land and sea".  Not only does that line get a laugh, but it has a ring of truth to it.  Boys that age clearly don't know about these kind of things, but like to pretend that they do.  Some of the best gags in the film are built around the idea that these boys keep on finding themselves in over their heads, but don't want it to show.  At one point, a teenager starts talking about taking molly, and one of the boys reasonably asks, "Who's she?".

But the movie is also largely about adolescence, and that strange period in everyone's life when they start Middle School.  Max (Jacob Tremblay), and his two best friends Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are at that pivotal age.  They've just started sixth grade, and they plan to face it together the same way that they faced elementary school - with each of them constantly having each other's backs.  But only two weeks into the school year, there is already signs that they may be going down different paths in life.  Max is starting to show an interest in girls, and wants to talk to who he is certain is his forever love, his young classmate Brixlee (Millie Davis).  Thor loves singing, has a great voice, and dreams of auditioning for this year's school musical, Rock of Ages.  However, he's much more concerned about being seen as "cool" by the popular kids, so he is constantly bragging about how much sex he's had, and how many beers he's stolen.  As for Lucas, he's the naive and sweet natured member of the trio.  He's the one who's still interested in trading card games, and fully believes that his two friends still feel the same way he does about things like cartoons and video games.

Like many coming of age stories, Good Boys covers a pivotal moment where their friendship will be tested, and go on an adventure.  In this movie's case, the adventure is kicked off when Max accidentally breaks his dad's (a funny Will Forte) prized drone.  His dad's away on business, so the kids have two days to get another one to replace it.  If they don't, Max will not be able to go to the "cool kids" party that he got invited to, and he won't get to have the chance to kiss Brixlee.  This leads to a series of run-ins with cops, angry frat boys, and the most mysterious creatures of all to boys of this age, teenage girls.  All the while, they try to learn about kissing via various means, as they don't want to be seen as lame when they eventually go to the big party.  This leads to some unfortunate searches on the Internet, and learning that Thor's parents have some very kinky interests judging by the stuff they have in their room.

I can easily see how a movie like this could have gone wrong, but co-writer and director Gene Stupnitsky (Bad Teacher) handles this material by giving it a certain innocence, and some genuinely funny dialogue.  While the humor and language is often crude, it never goes to such offensive extremes that I was turned off.  The movie is first and foremost a lot of fun, and when it places these boys into horrible situations or ones that they could not and should not understand at their age, it gets laughs out of how the young heroes so wrongly react to them.  When Max gives the girl he likes a gift (which I won't spoil here), the humor comes not from what it is, but the fact that both he and the girl are too young to know what it is.  The film also impresses in how it creates a genuine and honest friendship between the three boys.  The young actors work wonderfully with each other, and never seem to be playing for the cameras, like many lesser child stars.

Good Boys might have a dirty mind, but it also has a lot on its mind.  Most of all, it knows how to express these ideas it has, and do so with genuine humor and more heart than you might expect.  The trailer might convince you that it just wants to be a good time.  It certainly is, but fortunately, it's a lot more.

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