2019, R, 95 min. Directed by Gene Stupnitsky. Starring Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Millie Davis, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Will Forte, Retta, Izaac Wang, Stephen Merchant.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Aug. 16, 2019
Every creative mines their childhood. From literature to cinema, the themes of the coming of age trials are timeless and metaphors for transformation. We all experience them in our own particular way, but seen through a larger lens, it becomes clear that while these fits and starts of entering adulthood may be specific to ourselves, there are archetypal moments that remain universal. That is often what the best cinema does: provide filmic links that bring us all together. Alas, it seems that Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and company have created a cottage industry around male arrested development and scatological humor. But in Good Boys, these creatives have dialed back to that cusp of awareness: an awakening of awkward sexuality, of a world that is larger than riding bikes and magical card games. It is a subgenre that has seen a number of stellar entries in the past few years (Lady Bird, Eighth Grade, Call Me by Your Name). And while Good Boys has some interesting moments of reflection, make no mistake that this is a film about fart jokes and having 12-year-olds say “fuck” a lot.
Which is fine. This film does what it says on the box. Good Boys follows a trio of 6th grade friends: Max (Tremblay) harbors a crush on Brixlee (Davis) and is sweating an invitation from the cool kid at school to a kissing party. There is Lucas (Williams), an earnest soul whose parents are going through a divorce, which sends him into a bit of an existential crisis. And then there’s Thor (Noon), a gifted singer who spends the film eschewing his talents until, well, he doesn’t. There’s a quest to the mall to replace a broken drone that Max’s father covets, a plot involving two high school girls, Hannah (Gordon) and Lily (Francis), and a retrieval of drugs that the boys have gotten their hands on, and many (so many) instances of these tweens mistaking sexual paraphernalia (dildos, a sex doll, anal beads, etc.) as more benign objects than their intended uses.
And that’s what the film tries to mine, that cusp between innocence and awareness, but it is more interested in contrived scenarios to set up a joke that, more often than not, falls flat. There are some interesting moments, mostly involving Lucas' heartfelt steadfastness in the wake of his broken family, and Thor’s mild grappling with his singing career, but Max is given the short stick here, hand-wringing over kissing a girl for 90 minutes. Good Boys traffics in the by now trademark humor of the creators’ output: tweens and teenagers engaged in a variety of raunchy shenanigans. I guess they could keep remaking Superbad 'til the end of times, but there is the law of diminishing returns, and I believe we have reached that particular crest, but I have a feeling this wave will never crash.