Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “Good Boys” (2019)

The 2019 Seth Rogen-produced comedy Good Boys is about a group of best friends from the sixth grade – Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) – who make plans to attend a “kissing party”, attended by the coolest kids in their class, so that Max can kiss his longtime crush and for Thor to prove to the popular boys that he’s as cool as they are, already having given up his dream of singing in the school musical in order to be more like them. But when they realise that none of them actually know how to kiss, they decide to use Max’s dad’s coveted drone to spy on their neighbours (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis) with the hopes of learning how, but when the drone is seized by the girls and eventually wrecked, the boys skip school to go on an epic adventure to buy another drone, forced to score some Molly for the girls, and to eventually make it to the cool kids’ party.

Having seen the trailer for this film several times, I was really looking forward to Good Boys as it honestly looked hilarious and I figured that it would essentially be akin to a pre-teen Superbad, though I was prepared for the possibility of it not being as funny as the trailer would suggest, as is the case for many comedic movies, I find. And maybe Good Boys wasn’t quiiiiiite as riotous or as laugh-out-loud funny as the advertising would suggest but overall, it made for a perfectly satisfying and entertaining cinema outing and it definitely made me smile quite a bit – as evidenced by the fact that my face hurt a little bit afterwards. Always a good indicator of whether a comedy is effective or not.

The film follows in the footsteps of Superbad and Booksmart in that, taking place over the course of a single day, it’s about a very small group of best friends who have a party to get to but they have to overcome many obstacles and crazy characters in order to get there and before they make it to their final destination, where they will “get with” the people of their dreams, hijinks, side stories and crude humour ensues and before the night is over, they face the realisation of their lives heading in different directions and there’s the question of whether their friendship is strong enough to endure – with a final “confrontation” where it appears as though our lead characters may have outgrown each other. So when you look at it that way, Good Boys doesn’t break a whole deal of new ground as it’s a fundamentally basic comedy journey that is broken up by several big and outrageous “setpieces” (because simply getting from A to B would result in an incredibly boring film!) but what sets this film apart is that it has tweens doing all the crude, outrageous, 15 rated stuff and though the narrative foundation is familiar, the film’s inclusion of sixth grade kids as the central protagonists makes Good Boys fun to watch, it’s all a little different, and the pivotal trio more or less make it work.

Speaking of, the three boys at the centre of all the bawdy shenanigans are a lovely bunch and the actors step up to the challenge and do a grand job with the silly material that they’re given. As the film’s biggest star, Jacob Tremblay turns his hand to a kind of role that we haven’t seen from him before and as the central protagonist, the young and impressionable Max who wants nothing more than to kiss his sweetheart and to play fantasy games with his fellow “Beanbag Boys” (so named because they . . . have beanbag chairs), Tremblay is perfectly sweet, funny and supportable and he bravely dives into the raunchy material and is overall a believable fit for the part. Alongside, Brady Noon is especially strong as Thor, the boy who wants nothing more than to sing but is too obsessed with appearing cool and impressing the cool kids, unwavering in his quest to get to the party so that he can drink five sips of beer and to lose the mocking nickname “sippy cup”; sometimes appearing as the devil on Max’s shoulder, Noon seems the most at ease with all the swearing and bold material and he admirably convinces as perhaps the “tough guy” of the group while also believably hiding some inner turmoil and feelings for his fellow friends. And rounding out the trio, Keith L. Williams is a particularly wonderful addition as the cautious and easily worried Lucas – the friend who just can’t help snitching and is prone to some high pitched squealing; as the “good angel”, the voice of law and order, the Chucky Finster of the group, Williams compliments the group very well and brings a certain dynamic to the group, often mediating between Max and Thor while also having to deal with the prospect of his parents getting divorced.

All three boys make for a fun and very watchable film trio and overall, they deliver the laughs and heart but it isn’t always smooth sailing as often, it seems as though they’re trying too hard and they don’t always make the outrageous material work: sometimes lines of dialogue that should’ve gotten a laugh and which show the boys’ lack of understanding of how the world works (“I’m not a feminist! I love women!”) are delivered in such a way that they fall flat and are forgotten about, and sometimes, it seems a little unnatural to hear them say the F word so many times – like they’re trying too hard and aren’t 100% committed to the material. The story also calls for them to participate in some really emotionally charged scenes where they end up crying but in these moments, it’s a little too obvious that they’re acting and don’t fully convince with the dramatic material that they’re given. By child actor standards, they’re great participants but they have a long way to go if they hope to reach the standards set by “heavyweights” Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever!

As for the supporting cast, Booksmart‘s Molly Gordon and Midori Francis do well as pseudo-antagonists Hannah and Lily, though their characters aren’t nasty enough to be villains nor are they quite likeable enough to be “allies”, Will Forte (more Booksmart alumni!) does his job as Max’s dad, though his first scene with Jacob Tremblay is a little too awkward and uncomfortable, Get Out‘s Lil Rel Howrey and Parks and Recreation‘s Retta fare the best with their parental roles, playing Lucas’ parents very well, the actors who play the other kids show great promise, and a certain tall actor/writer/director (I won’t say who – it should be a surprise) provides some very funny support as an unfortunately clothed guy who shows up to buy a valuable trading card.

Looking at Good Boys‘ comedic value and its script, I’d say that the film is loaded with funny one-liners and gags, as well as those outlandish scenarios and wild setpieces, and though some of the jokes don’t exactly hit, there are still tons of jokes that do work and if you miss one funny moment, another is sure to come along straight afterwards and there may even be some parts that you miss, jokes that will be more noticable on repeat viewings – rewatchability being something that the film thankfully has going for it. The humour does get lewd and crude a lot of the time but it never goes over the line and is rarely inappropriate – watching the boys as they interact with drugs, sex toys, dolls, alcohol and naughty internet sites while being innocently unaware of that they really are is a funny thing to watch and at a time when comedy films are a dime a dozen – some of them written poorly, completely unfunny and with adult “comedy” actors who don’t even know what they’re doing – Good Boys proves it’s worth by having a very decent script featuring three great characters that will surely coax laughs out of the audience and at the end of the day, while not all of it completely works and the characters’ journey may be an overly familiar one, it’s still an entertaining and funny time at the cinema and the boys really make it work.

Beanbag Boys for life.

Although the narrative structure is fundamentally familiar, Good Boys is nonetheless an entertaining and funny film with three endearing performances at the centre.

★ ★ ★ ★

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