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Imagine Superbad with sixth-graders and you’ve got Good Boys, a raunchy R-rated comedy that’s made its world premiere at this year’s SXSW. Superbad writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produced the film, which follows three 12-year-olds through a wild journey involving a peeping Tom drone, club drugs trapped in a childproof bottle and nunchucks that are actually anal beads.
Jacob Tremblay, who won hearts opposite Brie Larson in Room, stars as girl-crazy Max, who sees an invite to a “kissing party” as the perfect chance to get close to his crush. There’s just one problem: Max doesn’t know how to kiss. Lucky for him, his crew – the Beanbag Boys – have his back. Together, aspiring tough guy Thor (Brady Noon) and sweet boy Lucas (Last Man On Earth’s Keith L Williams) try to make sense of this intimidating landmark of adolescence. But researching kissing is harder than they imagined. Googling “porn” proves overwhelming and disappointing. (“They didn’t even kiss!” “Well, not on their mouths.”) So, they steal Max’s dad’s drone to peep on the teen girl nextdoor (Molly Gordon), whose boyfriend has just dropped by. But when she snags this flying spy, the boys will have to bargain to get it back. And so begins a quest that will see them in a 10-speed chase, a Frogger-like race across a highway and a frat-house brawl where a bunch of bros get schooled.
The script by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky is packed wall-to-wall with jokes, to the point that this critic missed lines that were drowned out by the roars of laughter from the packed house at the Paramount Theatre. Having written on a string of sitcoms and helmed episodes of The Office, Stupnitsky brings a finely honed skill for punchline pacing to his feature directorial debut. But there’s just one problem. It’s mostly the same jokes over and over: cute kids cursing and not understanding sex stuff. Initially, it’s jolting fun to see these baby-faced boys dropping F-bombs or mistaking a cache of BDSM gear for “weapons” and a sex doll for a CPR dummy. (“It’s sticky.”) But as the boys run screaming through the second act, these bits offer diminishing returns. The foul language becomes a bit numbing. Thankfully, the third act’s comedy becomes more focused on character than crudeness, which gives its climactic montage a needed oomph.
Beyond this, the casting is great. Tremblay’s simple sweetness proves a dynamic foil to the gleefully obscene material. Noon’s attempts at macho bluster are as funny as they are embarrassing, whether he’s trying to talk big or sneak a stolen beer past a beleaguered cop. But Williams is the one who shines the brightest. He brings an entertaining earnestness to Lucas, who really wants to be a good boy above all else. So, he calls out bullying in a near-hysterical fit and squeals with shock at the realization that “You had us bring drugs to a fucking playground!” He even turns a scene of plaintively confessing all his crimes to his adorably supportive parents (Lil Rel Howery and Retta) into a laugh riot. Together, these three boys have an incredible energy that almost makes up for the movie’s one-note jokes. When they giddily squeal, we share in their excitement. When they break into frantic tears, our hearts ache for them. When they spit out an indignant “We’re not kids! We’re TWEENS!” we feel their frustration, even as we chuckle.
Bringing a bit of maturity to this devotedly juvenile comedy is a stellar cast of supporting players. Howery and Retta’s roles are small, but they manage to bring a sophisticated sting into an exchange about how their household is changing. Will Forte pops in to give a couple of cringe-comedy dad talks. But it’s the girls in Bad Boys who provide the greatest support. Molly Gordon and Midori Francis portray two teen girls who are just looking to get high and party when they are snared in these boys’ moment of coming-of-age panic. Being more mature and mysterious to this tender trio, they get to shift roles from eye-rolling older sisters to Terminator 2-style villains to sympathetic babysitters. And in each incarnation, they bring verve, variety and some keenly timed reflection to this boys’ tale.
For all its spirit, Good Boys feels like a shallow retread, being essentially Superbad Jr. But like that beloved coming-of-age comedy, this one is raunchy fun with a heart of gold and a slew of outlandish set pieces sure to crowd-please. All in all, Good Boys is a good time.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Good Boys review – foul-mouthed comedy is Superbad with 12-year-olds | Film