The R-rated tween comedy “Good Boys” sets the tone early for what audiences should expect for the next 90 minutes.
Alone in his room, 12-year-old Max (Jacob Tremblay from “Room”) tries to slyly lock his bedroom door as he customizes a female video game character in a bikini with large features.
Max’s lame-but-cool dad, played by Will Forte, catches on to his mischief and instead of browbeating him, expresses joy for his son slowly becoming a teenager.
To sum it up, if you’re not cool like Max’s dad with all the sex stuff involving tweens, as well as drugs, alcohol and profanity, this is not for you.
Directed by “The Office” veteran Gene Stupnitsky, who co-wrote the script with fellow “Office” scribe Lee Eisenberg, “Good Boys” takes that naive, Michael Scott-esque mindset and seamlessly grafts it onto Max and his two friends, Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams), as they form the clique known as “The Bean Bag Boys.” (Because they hang out on bean bags. Duh.)
On the surface, “Good Boys” operates like an “American Pie” with tweens, mixed with the rapid-fire, improv-lite jokes of a Judd Apatow. In the first 30 minutes, it delivers an exhausting, frantic assault of crude gags, with about as many hits as it has misses.
When Max finds out Soren (Izaac Wang), the coolest kid in school, is hosting a kissing party, he makes it his mission to get there so he can lock lips with Brixlee (Millie Davis), a girl with whom he can’t even make eye contact.
To not look like amateurs, the boys have to find out how to kiss, leading them on several unsuccessful adventures, including watching an adult movie, using a “Real Doll” and flying Max’s dad’s drone to spy on the neighbors who, according to Max, are nymphomaniacs because they kiss.
A lot of the movie’s best jokes come from the trio’s misunderstanding of the world and how adults act in it. They think their neighbors wanting to take MDMA before a Kendrick Lamar concert makes them junkies, owning a rare $600 trading card makes them millionaires, and getting the record number of pulls off of a bottle of beer means they’re not kids anymore.
When it finally settles in at the half-hour mark, “Good Boys,” like the similarly-plotted “Superbad” and “Booksmart,” proves it has more than gross-out gags going on underneath the surface. Where the two abovementioned movies were about people nervously embracing life beyond high school, “Good Boys” focuses on childhood friendships, why they happen (usually a product of proximity and the friends’ parents being pals) and how every event during that awkward period feels like a life-or-death occurrence.
The chemistry between the trio sells the movie, even when the jokes don’t land. They exude a faux world weariness to seem cool and vulnerable innocence when they realize they need each other’s friendships to get through life.
Because of its frantic nature, “Good Boys” isn’t as well-paced and crafted as something like “Superbad.” But as a quick, fun excuse for crass laughs with some heart, it marginally makes the grade.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live