Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Film Review

‘Good Boys’ is overkill on kids behaving badly


Nearly impossible not to telegraph every joke before the punchline

“Good Boys”
R | 90 minutes
Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon

Where “Booksmart” was essentially a gender-bent “Superbad,” “Good Boys” follows a similar story archetype though substituting tweens for high school seniors. The boys are still trying to get some (albeit a kiss rather than getting laid), must-attend parties that define one’s social status at school, and friendships are tested. It’s a plot that’s so well known that it’s nearly impossible not to telegraph every joke before the punchline. And the reliance on seeing kids drop four-letter words every few sentences is funny — to a point. And that point was reached early on.

Lifelong friends Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) get invited to a kissing party. But they don’t know much about how to pucker up, having never kissed a girl, which is especially a problem for Max since his crush (Millie Davis) will be there. But the other two, Thor and Lucas, have their own issues. Thor is a terrific singer, but he’s considering giving it up after being teased by his peers. And Lucas’ parents (Lil Rel Howery and Retta) have announced plans to divorce.

When they hit a dead-end, Max decides to use his father’s drone to spy on the teenage girls next door. After losing the drone, the boys decide to skip school and hatch a plan to retrieve it before Max’s dad (Will Forte) can figure out what happened.

While there are several running subplots, one main joke connects everything together; little kids curse like sailors while misunderstanding sex. There are constant jokes of the main characters having a poor understanding of certain sexual topics, including Real Dolls, tampons, anal beads (they think it’s foreign and pronounced “uh-nahl”), and the list goes on. They also have a poor understanding of drugs, thinking that “molly” is the name of a girl when two older girls are asking for their drugs back. They keep hitting the same few jokes into your head throughout the movie, and it becomes tiresome. However, some unique humor does save the film from being monotonous; a repeated gag about them not being able to open child-proof pill bottles will delight longer than expected. Another being that Lucas for some reason always has to be brutally honest, even if it means getting in the worst type of trouble.

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Some of the events that happen would be too dark and serious if not for the adorable lens in place due to the innocence of the three boys. Their misunderstandings of how the world outside of middle school works is enough to make anyone yearn back to the days of childish innocence.

Tremblay, Noon and Williams have amazing chemistry with each other, which also helps sell this movie. While “Room” star Tremblay is at the center of the plot, Williams steals the show as the adorably naive and goody-two-shoes Lucas.

Aside from the raunchy humor, this movie isn’t without some poignant times with heart. The notion that you’re not the same person today that you were in the sixth grade is a potent one, especially as the film deals with how its youngsters can embrace their own personalities, interests and identities without abandoning each other. A moment when the kids say they’re best friends only to slowly realize it may be more because their parents are friends, they live near one another and they go to the same school and not because they found each other naturally is particularly moving. Friendship evolves as people grow, and the movie does a good job of showcasing this, albeit from the perspective of a 12-year-old.

Ultimately, this movie feels like it would be better received as a web series. The jokes are so repetitious that 90 minutes feels like an overkill on the idea of kids behaving badly. Did I laugh? Sure, it was amusing. But as a comedy, it left a lot of laughs on the table. ♦

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