If Superbad is the gold standard for raunchy high school comedies, then Good Boys, in my humble opinion, is the first “coming of age” comedy since the 2007 hit to come close to that level of humor. Although the film follows the escapades of three middle schoolers, all of the typical high school comedy tropes are present: the incessant need to be included by the popular kids; a lead boy smitten by a girl he barely knows; a house party at the end of a long day; and enough f-bombs to make Tarantino flinch (but still probably not). While all of these elements are prominent throughout its one hour and twenty-nine-minute runtime, the film is quite introspective in dealing with the inevitability of friends drifting apart as they grow up.
Written and Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, a writer and producer for the show the Office (2005-2013) and the film Bad Teacher (2011), Good Boys tells the story of three sixth-graders who play hooky in order to embark on an adventure so they can attend a party without getting in trouble from their parents. The leads; Jacob Tremblay as Max; Keith L. Williams as Lucas; and Brady Noon as Thor, are a great team as “the bean-bag boys,” the self-given name for their collective friendship. These three create a realistic dynamic, each bringing to the table their own unique idiosyncrasies, while maintaining a unified bond. Throughout the movie there is a lot of push and pull, which is not unlike real friendships, especially in a time of their lives when their interests start to shift in different directions. For fear of spoiling too much, I won’t say much more about the plot here on out, but what I will say is the supporting cast is every bit as funny as the mains and set up an atmosphere that works brilliantly.
The movie does a good job at portraying sixth graders in a way that seems more authentic than what other movies have done. For some reason the movies that come to mind are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies which make middle-schoolers out to have the world view of seven-year-olds. Granted, those movies are directed towards younger audiences and the age gap between seven and eleven-year-olds is only four years, however, looking back on my own time as a sixth grader I can vaguely remember having a similar perspective to the leads in Good Boys. The movie seems to properly balances the boys’ naiveite and their reckless abandon for the use of profanities, which at times, may seem over-the-top, but at others seems just about right.
Good Boys alsogoes deeper than what its rip-roaring-comedy exterior may suggest. Along the way it reveals a message of letting go as one of life’s necessities. While reflecting on his adventures as a twelve-year-old at the end of Rob Reiner’s classic, Stand by Me (1986), the main character, who has now grown up with children of his own, finishes off recounting his story with this: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” To me this is one of the most powerful lines that has ever ended a story and one that probably resonates with most people who encounter it. It is bittersweet, but it describes life in a universally understandable way. Although Good Boys does not get that profound with its message, there are moments where you can definitely catch yourself confronting those sorts of self-reflective thoughts throughout the film.
Even though the movie does not seem to have a single, “McLovin moment,” it does have a culmination of jokes and bits which make it worth seeing. The people the boys encounter along the way all seem to be a bit outrageous: making for memorable -not to mention enjoyable- characters. Another thing this film does well is play with the idea of exaggeration when it comes to the situations the leads find themselves in. These situations seem so outlandish that they make sense coming from the perspective of children.
Overall Good Boys is a comedy that both feels fresh (quite frankly I am surprised no one in Hollywood has thought to make a raunchy comedy using middle-schoolers before) and familiar (having a similar vibe to the beloved Judd Apatow movies of the 2000s). Also, with producers like long time collaborators; Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, and Jonah Hill, this movie was always going to have a comfortable familiarity to it.
If you are in the mood for an entertaining comedic adventure that does not take itself too seriously, go watch Good Boys which hits theaters Thursday August 15.
My rating: 8/10