FILM REVIEW – GOOD BOYS. With Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis. Written by Lee Eisenberg & Gene Stupnitsky. Directed by Gene Stupnitsky. Rated R for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout – all involving tweens. 89 minutes.
Remember “Sausage Party” (2016)? It was a late summer animated film which earned many favorable reviews which made a point of saying: NOT FOR KIDS! Well, GOOD BOYS is a live action film about the misadventures of three sixth graders navigating that “tween” stage between childhood and adolescence and it is NOT FOR KIDS! (And it probably isn’t for the parents of kids that age either.)
Mixing raunchy humor with an undeniable sweetness, it follows the adventures of three friends since kindergarten who find themselves in a new world. Max (Jacob Tremblay) has discovered girls, more particularly one girl (Millie Davis) whom he declares to be his future wife. When he is invited by the cool kids to a “kissing party” he’s nervous because he has never actually kissed a girl. With his friends Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon), he sets out to get the information he needs.
Going online leads to kinky internet port that horrifies the boys. Instead they decide to spy on a high school girl and her boyfriend, using a drone belonging to Max’s dad (and which he was specifically forbidden to use). This sets in motion a series of events involving drugs, sex toys (of which they are oblivious to their use), playing hooky, and testing the limits of their friendship.
There are a lot of laughs, often coming from what the boys think they know proving to be wrong, or what they consider daring or adult. The poignancy comes from them slowly discovering what it really means to mature. Lucas is dealing with the announcement that his parents are getting divorced and the loss of stability in his life. Thor lets others define him so that while he loves to sing, he decides not to try out for the school musical. All three have to decide if the bond between them – they dub themselves the “Beanbag Boys” – will survive the transition to middle school.
While there have been numerous such movies about teenagers, such as “Superbad” and the recent “Booksmart,” this is new territory. Indeed, it is believed to be the first time a movie got an R rating for sex, drugs, and language “all involving tweens.” This is no “Afterschool Special.” The young boys are believable in their innocence and in how they cope with it, whether it’s Lucas constantly confessing or Thor bragging how he can drink four sips of beer. The playing out of Max’s romantic yearnings will remind viewers of just how raw those emotions can be when experienced for the first time.
“Good Boys” will strike a note for those who can remember what it’s like to be that age, while the R-rated material will make sure kids who actually are that age will just have to wait until they’re older.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.