Good Boys is the latest example of the “raunchy but sweet” comedy. Movies of this variety have tons of hard-R humor which they temper with some kind of sincere message or theme that runs underneath. What distinguishes it from the others is that the main characters are just beginning to enter adolescence. Potty-mouthed tweens trying to wrap their young minds around sex and drugs is always good for a laugh, right? Well, maybe not in real life, but on screen, definitely.
Max (Room's Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are best friends. They don't entirely fit in at their middle school. Max has a crush on a girl, so when one of the cool kids invites him to a “kissing party” she'll be at, he eagerly accepts, on the condition that he can bring his pals along. None of them know how to kiss, so they hatch a scheme to spy on a neighbor and her boyfriend. This leads to a wacky adventure involving two angry teen girls, some accidentally stolen drugs, and a drone. Oh, and sex toys that the boys mistakenly believe are weapons.
The movie doesn't shy away from raunchy comedy. It works because the joke is how the kids react to the things they encounter. Like a lot of children their age, they've learned a few adult things, yet remain naive about others. Sometimes their information is inaccurate or they misunderstand. For example, they incorrectly think a sex doll they find is actually a CPR dummy. In taking this approach, the occasionally graphic references assume a weirdly charming quality. We're not being asked to laugh at this stuff because it's edgy, we're asked to laugh at the innocent way the characters perceive them. If you have any memories of trying to grasp something slightly above your maturity level, you'll probably laugh at what occurs here.
Wrapped inside the humor is a look at how friends start to grow apart. The “Beanbag Boys,” as they call themselves, have been pals forever. Their adventure begins to reveal cracks in the friendship. They still like being together, but have certain individual desires that necessitate going down separate roads once in a while. Good Boys drives that home with some poignant scenes in the last twenty minutes, giving the story a ring of truth.
Strong chemistry between the three leads makes it all work. Tremblay effectively conveys the way Max feels slightly tied down by his own devotion to his buddies, and Noon nicely captures how Thor pretends to be more confident than he really is. The standout performance comes from Williams, who's hilarious as Lucas, a good kid who finds comfort in following rules and therefore continually struggles with all the misdeeds he and his cohorts engage in. Molly Gordon and Midori Francis – as Hannah and Lily, the guys' nemeses – do excellent supporting work.
From a filmmaking perspective, Good Boys is nothing special. Director Gene Supnitsky edits everything tightly, to the point where the picture intermittently feels a tad choppy. Allowing some of the scenes to breathe more would have strengthened it overall. His screenplay, co-written with Lee Eisenberg, is so full of funny material that looking past that issue isn't too hard, though.
Getting the mixture of raunchy and sweet right can be difficult. Good Boys generally succeeds. This is a very funny movie, packed with jokes that will have you laughing out loud. Those jokes are used to make a nice statement about the value of enduring friendship.
out of four
Good Boys is rated R for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout - all involving tweens. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.