Every Hollywood child star has that moment when their wholesomeness is lost in the public eye. Miley Cyrus had twerking at the MTV Video Music Awards. Justin Bieber had peeing in a restaurant’s mop bucket. Mitchel Musso had an underage DUI. Justin Bieber also had an underage DUI. Basically, a bunch of child stars have had underage DUIs. Although this disillusionment usually happens off-screen (and, likely, much to Disney executives’ chagrin), child star and perpetual golden retriever Jacob Tremblay’s coming-of-age happens quite on-screen in “Good Boys.”
The film — which was presumably born from a haze of weed smoke and someone asking, “Bro, what if we did a middle school production of ‘Superbad’?” — follows newly minted middle schoolers Max (Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) as they get invited to their first kissing party and must frantically figure out how to kiss beforehand. Obviously, many, many things go wrong, and the boys embark on a misadventure consisting of molly, sex toys and frat boys. And of course, along the way, they learn a great deal about friendship and growing up.
Twelve-year-old boys wouldn’t seem like the likely candidates to revive the slowly dying R-rated comedy genre, but as “Good Boys” proves, combining coming-of-age with raunchy comedy is a match made (seven minutes) in heaven. Born from “The Office” veteran writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, the movie reads like an Adult Swim episode of “Arthur.” Although its cornerstone is rooted in libertine humor, there are still moments of earnest adolescent mishaps reminiscent of “The Sandlot” or “The Goonies” that will almost make you forget that you shouldn’t bring your kid to this movie. Then, neatly peppered into these cute comedic scenes will be a scene where the kids wield dildos and anal beads as weapons, and you’ll immediately remember that you should keep your children far, far away.
Given that the entire premise of “Good Boys” rests on middle schoolers getting into some deep shit, it comes as no surprise that most of the movie’s humor stems from the dramatic irony of adorable children not understanding “adult” concepts. From the boys mistaking a sex doll for a CPR mannequin to the coolest kid in school having a record for drinking three sips of beer, “Good Boys” turns naiveté into some of the movie’s best gags.
However, the law of diminishing returns does apply slightly — the audience slowly becomes desensitized to the raunchy charm of 12-year-olds dropping F-bombs and the sex-related gags that were just hilarious minutes ago. But luckily, the film varies its juvenile juxtaposition enough that you’re not completely rolling your eyes by the end when Max gives his adoring crush an anal bead necklace and calling them “Ah-nahl.” And in return, the few jokes not related to age inadvertently land even harder.
As well written as the script was, “Good Boys” could only succeed with the help of a talented cast to execute it. With the main cast all born when Livestrong bracelets were hot and the Motorola Razr was in style, the kids are old enough to understand good comedic timing and young enough to remind you about how unaccomplished you are. Outside of the core trio, Izaac Wang stands out as Soren, the effortlessly cool kid who hosts the infamous kissing party at the center of the film. Each of his few lines is delivered with a perfectly offhand nonchalance that will instill veneration even within the adults in the audience.
It may not be the typical Oscar bait or the next big global blockbuster, but “Good Boys” is a great film for those who are nostalgic for Disney Channel Original Movies and have no interest in watching an actual Disney Channel Original Movie. Witty and charming with just the right amount of heartfelt childhood lessons on friendship, “Good Boys” may be exactly what the R-rated comedy genre needs right now.
Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].