Good Boys focuses too much on the bawdy humor of this raunchy comedy starring tweens, often to the detriment of the characters and emotional beats.
Raunchy teen comedies that mine sex for jokes have been around for decades, often reinvented for each generation's specific sense of humor. With Good Boys, director Gene Stupnitsky reinvents the comedy genre once again, this time using tween boys, who are on the cusp of becoming full-blown teenagers. The younger leads allow for some different kinds of sex jokes - mostly predicated on their lack of knowledge about sex - all while attempting to tell a heartwarming story about growing up individually and how that affects childhood friendships. Good Boys focuses too much on the bawdy humor of this raunchy comedy starring tweens, often to the detriment of the characters and emotional beats.
Good Boys follows a trio of best friends - Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) - who have just started sixth grade. When they're invited to a kissing party by the coolest boy in their class, the friends realize they must first learn how to kiss. Their mission leads them to breaking Max's father's drone, and all three skip school to buy a new one so they won't be grounded. They go on a wild journey that involves accidentally stealing molly from Max's teenage neighbor Hannah (Molly Gordon) and her friend Lily (Midori Francis), and a brush with Officer Sacks (Sam Richardson). Ultimately, though, their day highlights how much the three boys are growing apart as they grow up, and it's unclear if they'll be able to remain friends.
With a script by Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (The Office), Good Boys really leans into the raunchy humor of its premise, delivering jokes about Max and his friends discovering sex in our modern era - complete with computer searches for porn and jabs at frat guys being accused of sexual assault. The constant jokes propel Goods Boys through its rather thin plot, but the barrage of sex humor becomes tedious at times, especially since the only other jokes in the film are based on the boys' lack of knowledge about drugs, which is just an extension of the main joke of the movie. As a result of Stupnitsky and Eisenberg throwing every kind of tween sex and drug joke into Good Boys they could think of - and seemingly not weeding out the less funny ones - it all runs together, and very little stands out.
Further, with the script and directing focused largely on humor, it leaves little room for actual emotion in Good Boys. The story is meant to be rooted in how the boys' friendship is evolving as they grow up, and while Good Boys takes their relationship in a compelling direction in the third act, this emotional arc is undercut by the constant barrage of jokes and fake tears. For their parts, Tremblay, Noon and Williams do what they can with the script. While Tremblay is arguably given the most grounded role, which he pulls off thanks to his proven talent, Williams ends up stealing the spotlight much of the time with Lucas' charming naiveté and determination. Together, the three actors work off each other effectively, bringing different personalities to Good Boys, but they're mainly tasked with carrying off the adult jokes of Stupnitsky and Eisenberg's script, which they do well enough.
Ultimately, Good Boys is an enjoyable enough comedy, though it's unclear exactly who the audience is for this R-rated tween comedy. It's certainly not meant for actual tweens, who won't be able to get in without an adult - but who wouldn't be caught dead seeing this movie with their parents - and who wouldn't understand most of the jokes anyway. Good Boys' humor is specifically aimed at adults who understand dildos aren't weapons and sex dolls aren't CPR dummies. But while Good Boys may remind adults of their own tween years, the story is so rooted in the present - with the internet and drones - that it's not quite for older audiences either. It's especially not for adult audiences who don't want to watch tween boys watching porn for the very first time or pretend to have had sex already.
As a result, those interested in the raunchy comedy premise of Good Boys or who enjoyed the trailers may have a perfectly enjoyable time watching this film. Some of the best jokes were included in the trailers, but there are enough jokes (arguably too many) in the movie to keep viewers entertained through the film's 90-minute runtime. However, Good Boys fails to make a case for why anyone else would be compelled to check out this middling comedy. Good Boys promises a raunchy comedy with tween protagonists, and it delivers on that premise, but doesn't offer much more than that. Those hoping for a nuanced take on boys coming of age in the modern era of technology and more public discussions of consent should look elsewhere, as Good Boys simply aims for the low hanging fruit. While some moviegoers may be satisfied by that alone, those who want more can skip Good Boys.
Good Boys is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 89 minutes long and rated R for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout - all involving tweens.
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- Good Boys (2019) release date: Aug 16, 2019