I don’t know what it is about youth comedies that seems to be so amusing. Is it the subversive nature of the narrative where they take young people who are supposed to be seen as innocent and present them as just a foul mothed and corrupt as adults or is it the genuinely good comedy that comes from their misunderstanding of the world around them? I don’t know for sure but it has worked, giving us amazing comedy movies like “Superbad” and this year’s “Booksmart”. But what these movies presented were teenagers getting wild at an age where teenagers due tend to stretch the rules of life. The latest comedy in this strangely popular subgenre “Good Boys” goes a bit younger showing us the misadventures of a trio of sixth graders growing up in a not-so-PG world. “Good Boys” has proven to be a surprising success in its opening weekend so I made it a priority for me to see what all the buzz is really about. Being the comedy cynic I am you never know how these films will fly with me. So, let’s see if “Good Boys” earns my respect or if it’s just another overindulgent genre piece that tries too hard with little payoff. This is my review of ‘Good Boys”.
“Good Boys” focuses on three sixth grade friends, Max (Justin Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) who have nicknamed their trio the Bean Bag Boys. Each is dealing with their own crisis in life as Max tries to work up the courage to ask out his crush, Thor struggles with his self-image, and Lucas is faced with the divorce of his otherwise supportive and loving parents. When the boys are invited to a kissing party by the most popular kid in school, they use Max’s father’s drone to attempt to spy on Max’s college student neighbor Hannah (Molly Gordon) and her best friend Lily (Midori Francis) hoping to learn how to kiss. However, when the girls capture the drone and attempt to teach the boys a lesson Thor steals Hannah’s bag, containing Molly they planned to take at a concert. The film turns into a cat-and-mouse chase as the boys try to find a way to replace the drone while the girls try to retrieve their drugs. Along the way, the trio partakes in hilarious adult-themed situations and come face to face with realities of life that test the bonds of their friendship.
Right out of the box I’m going to admit no film in 2019 and I don’t think any movie in 2018 had me laughing so fast or as consistently as “Good Boys”. Almost from the very first scene I found myself either belly laughing or covering my mount and maybe one of my eyes in embarrassment because of what I was seeing on screen and it was such a delightful and unique experience compared to other comedies we’ve seen in recent years. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a comedy with depth and proper thematic significance, and “Good Boys” has that worked in, but in terms of raunchy comedies “Good Boys” is the most fun I’ve had in a while. The concept in itself feels juvenile and maybe even cliché. Three young boys put themselves in a position that forces them to grow up maybe a bit too fast as they try to fix what they did wrong. It’s a narrative we’re familiar with handled in a way that even after watching the trailers I didn’t quite expect. I think what makes it work for me is that the comedy and the awkwardness of seeing a bunch of pre-teens swearing and talking about drugs and sex and social hierarchies is both off-putting and fascinating at the same time.
The fact that these are kids makes it a perfectly effective idea because we are programmed to believe people of that age are so innocent and yet here on the screen we’re seeing kids not only understanding certain adult ideas but learning about some of life’s most embarrassing realities through various mishaps and interactions with other kids at school…and the parents don’t seem to care. Right from the first scene, we see a father who talks to his sixth-grade son about masturbation…and that’s just the BEGINNING!!! If that kind of comedy doesn’t sit well with you steer clear from this film, but for me, I found it some of the most fun and uncomfortable humor I’ve seen this year. The whole movie feels built to subvert expectations in every way possible the same way another Seth Rogan-produced comedy from 2016, “Sausage Party”, subverted the family-friendly expectations of animated films. In an ironic twist “Good Boys” provides fun for the audience by making us, the adults, feel like we’re seeing something we shouldn’t be seeing. “Sausage Party” might actually be the last film I remember that made me feel so pleasantly uncomfortable due purely to the content. It’s this element, this lack of comfort and subversion of expectations, that makes us laugh either nervously or at the ridiculousness of it all. It’s effective, it’s fun, and it’s not without its themes and messages that it wants to share either.
While a lot of “Good Boys” is meant to be a laughing good time, there’s also some important story themes worked in like the fear of change, the value of self-confidence and identity, and the idea that we all grow into our own stories. I love a comedy movie that takes the time to be effectively entertaining but never loses sight of the heart of its narrative and “Good Boys” is a great example of how this works. The three main characters, Max, Thor, and Lucas, are well cast with dedicated and capable young stars like Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, and Keith Williams respectively who sell the trio’s relationship flawlessly. With that believability set in stone, the rest of the story mixes coming of age elements with themes of life even adults can appreciate. By the end of it all the trio are questioning their bond and while they come to realize they’re going to eventually live their own lives they discover there are ways they can continue to support each other even as they have their own adventures and seek out their own places in the world. In fact, the movie even dares to imply it’s their unwillingness to let each other go that was holding them back in the first place, boldly telling everyone watching, young or old, that it’s okay to live your own life even at the risk of losing people who are important to you. If that bond is truly effective, then it will outlast those changes. These are powerful lessons for these three young boys to learn AND for the viewers to learn as well especially in a comedy so heavily focused on its outrageous humor.
“Good Boys” is a rare gem, one we only seem to get every few years but recently has become the more preferred subgenre of comedy for fans…that raunchy teen and pre-teen focused subversive film that goes all out in its ridiculousness while also giving us some substance to relate to. I have to say its working for me and as someone who traditionally baulks at the very idea of a straight-up comedy movie being anything worth its running time I have to give “Good Boys” credit for continuing to show me that sometimes comedies not only work, but they can be fun and insightful in the right hands. A committed and fun cast, nonstop energy, and some important life lessons all come together to create one of the best comedies of the past few years and, quite honestly, maybe the decade. If you go into this film be prepared to laugh, be prepared to be challenged, and be prepared to feel delightfully uncomfortable. It might not be for everyone, but if you’re willing to embrace it “Good Boys” will have you cry laughing and maybe even thinking a bit about life from start to finish and even after the credits roll.