Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Lil Rel Howery, Will Forte
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual References and Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: https://www.goodboysmovie.com
Opening Day: 12 September 2019
Synopsis: Just how bad can one day get? The creative minds behind Superbad , Pineapple Express and Sausage Party take on sixth grade hard in the outrageous comedy, Good Boys . After being invited to his first kissing party, 12 - year - old Max ( Room ’ s Jacob Tremblay) is panicking because he doesn’t know how to kiss. Eager for some pointers, Max and his best friends Thor (Brady Noon, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire ) and Luc as (Keith L. Williams, Fox’s The Last Man On Earth ) decide to use Max’s dad’s drone – which Max is forbidden to touch – to spy (they think) on a teenage couple ma king out next door. But when things go ridiculously wrong, the drone is destroyed. Desperate to replace it before Max’s dad (Will Forte , The Last Man on Earth ) gets home, the boys skip school and set off on an odyssey of epically bad decisions involving some accidentally stol en drugs, frat - house paintball , and running from both the cops and terrifying teenage girls ( Life of the Party ’s Molly Gordon and Ocean’s Eight’s Midori Francis).
Seeing as how the teenage coming-of-age movie has been just about done to death by Hollywood, the reigning kings of the genre (by this, we mean producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) have slyly taken the same formula and applied it to tweens. Oh yes, the lead characters here are a trio of sixth-graders – Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) – who call themselves ‘the Beanbag Boys’, and are too young and innocent to differentiate a sex doll from a CPR doll, or say what a nymphomaniac means (“someone who has sex on land and sea,” one of them says).
As conceived by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, the writing team best known for its episodes of ‘The Office’, ‘Good Boys’ follows the misadventures of these 12-year-old boys desperate to learn how to kiss properly before they attend a ‘kissing party’ hosted by the school’s resident cool kid (Izaac Wang). Besides googling ‘porn’ and practising on the (ahem) aforementioned doll, they decide to use Max’s father’s drone to spy on his next-door teenage neighbours Hannah (Molly Gordon) and Lily (Midori Francis). Unfortunately for them, both girls decide to turn the tables on their snoopers, leading to a string of hijinks to retrieve and replace the drone.
These hijinks allow first-time director Stupnitsky to unleash a bunch of spontaneous gags and choreographed set pieces. The gags range from mistaking a bunch of sex toys for weapons, an encounter with an exhausted local cop (Sam Richardson) at a convenience store while trying to steal beer, and a running joke involving some stolen molly (read: MDMA) disguised in a kids’ vitamin pill bottle which the kids somehow just cannot pry open the childproof cap of; and the more elaborate set pieces include a harrowing freeway dash to get to the local mall, as well as an unexpected battle with some frat boys whom they attempt to buy some molly from.
To be sure, because of the age of these characters, you can sense the writers have held back the raunch just so they do not cross the line into morally questionable territory (as opposed to say how the bets would be off if the kids were 14 and adolescents). Because it is clearly calibrated, the humour is somehow less laugh-out-loud amusing than we had expected; in fact, we would even say that besides a couple of chuckles, the rest of the movie will probably just inspire a smile or two, and much really depends on the extent to which you identify with the struggles of these boys who are navigating the perils of pre-pubescence.
Than being a gross-out comedy, where Stupnitsky succeeds is in portraying their age-appropriate troubles. Max is on one hand obsessed with getting his first kiss with the girl of his dreams right at the ‘kissing party’, and on the other worried that his dad will come home from his work trip to find out that the work drone he had specifically asked Max not to touch is missing. Lucas doesn’t quite know how to deal yet with his parents’ announcement that they are divorcing, notwithstanding that they have reassured him he will get to enjoy pizza nights twice a week. And last but not least, Thor is worried about his image at school, having being labelled ‘sippy cup’ after chickening out from drinking a bottle of beer during an earlier dare.
And over and above their own individual worries, Stupnitsky makes them confront their inevitable drifting apart as they grow up, such that after the day’s shenanigans are over, we get a whole coda at the end showing how they have each gone their own ways and yet miss each other’s company at the same time. It’s a bittersweet ending all right, but unmistakably just as important to what Stupnitsky had wanted his audience to take away as the jokes that had come before it. Thanks to the loopy charm of his three young stars, that mix of sweetness, crassness and heartfelt-ness manages to be sufficiently winning.
Like we said, ‘Good Boys’ probably isn’t as hilarious as you think it would be – and the fact that the less than tightly constructed plot is really intended as scaffolding for the gags and set pieces doesn’t help – but there is still plenty of heart to be found in this movie which grounds itself in believable characters who are recognisably kids we all know. In case you’re wondering, it does thread on a fine line between funny and offensive, and for the most part, Stupnitsky displays enough sensitivity to come out the former than the latter. It’s a pre-teen raunchy comedy at the end of the day, and if the title is any indication, it’s good (not great).
(Not quite gross-out funny, and mixed with bittersweet emotion, this pre-teen coming-of-age sex comedy delivers the chuckles, though not quite the guffaws)
Review by Gabriel Chong