Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Will Forte, Sam Richardson, Lil Rel Howery and Retta
Run time: 1h 30m
Best buds Max, Lucas and Thor (Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon) otherwise known as The Bean-bag Boys (because they own bean-bags, of course) are sixth graders trapped in that awkward age of knowing that adults do ‘adult things’, but not necessarily understanding what those ‘things’ are. As they attempt to navigate the changes that growing up brings, through a series of unfortunate events they find themselves becoming unwitting drug mules on the run from a pair of ruthless teenage girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis) and facing a series of challenges desperately hoping to make it back in time to pucker up at a kissing party.
The kids and their quirks are quickly established; Max thinks he’s the mature one, Lucas just wants to do the right thing, compulsively telling the truth for fear of reprisals and Thor is all talk and no action. Director and writer Gene Stupnitsky (making his feature debut), along with co-writer Lee Eisenberg, outrageously push the boundaries of decency and taste and end up with an erratic combination of hilarity and crassness with the exceptional performances of the children saving the day. There’s no denying that they are all excellent, particularly Williams who steals the show, and they have a charming innocence about them that has possibly been ruined by appearing in this film. When it’s funny, it’s hysterical, but many gags miss the mark and some leave nothing but a bitter taste. Or nasty smell…
Whilst it starts off fairly amusing to hear these youngsters dropping the F-bomb and confusing sex toys for weapons, the novelty quickly wears off and the film relies far too heavily on their angel faces with dirty-mouths. Good Boys often focuses on the same gag repeated several times and each time becomes less funny than the last. Having said that, there certainly are laughs to be had from some standout set-pieces including a paint-ball shootout, a real-life version of Frogger on a busy highway and a frenetic bicycle chase resulting in an eye-watering injury.
The casting throughout is on point. Sam Richardson, Lil Rel Howery and Retta all leave their mark on the little they have to do and Molly Gordon and Midori Francis have a lot of fun as party girls starting out as the boy’s enemies before finding out they actually have a lot in common.
Comparisons to teen sex-comedies such as Superbad are inevitable, especially considering Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill’s involvement as producers and there’s more than a slice served up inspired by American Pie, but Good Boys is its own film precisely because of the age of the kids involved.
Guaranteed to offend many, but at its heart is a story about friendship that should resonate with all. There’s something quite touching about watching the boys realise not all relationships are built to last and the final act, where character development takes over from the deliberately provocative adult themes, is surprisingly poignant in places.
Good Boys releases in UK cinemas on August 16th.