Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Movie Review: Good Boys

Good Boys *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Gene Stupnitsky.
Written by: Lee Eisenberg & Gene Stupnitsky.
Starring: Jacob Tremblay (Max), Keith L. Williams (Lucas), Brady Noon (Thor), Molly Gordon (Hannah), Midori Francis (Lily), Izaac Wang (Soren), Millie Davis (Brixlee), Josh Caras (Benji), Will Forte (Max's Dad), Mariessa Portelance (Max’s Mom), Lil Rel Howery (Lucas's Dad), Retta (Lucas' Mom), Michaela Watkins (Saleswoman), Christian Darrel Scott (Marcus), Macie Juiles (Taylor), Chance Hurstfield (Atticus), Enid-Raye Adams (Thor’s Mom), Craig Haas (Clerk), Sam Richardson (Officer Sacks), Benita Ha (Soren's Mom), Matt Ellis (Mr. K), Lina Renna (Annabelle).
There is an undeniable sweetness to Good Boys – a raunchy comedy featuring three tween boys – that makes the film work. I think we’ve moved beyond the rather cheap ploy that all you need for a comedy to work is to have kids say inappropriate things and hilarity is sure to ensue. The boys in Good Boys really are good. They are in the sixth grade – about the time they start to stop hating girls, and be drawn to them – while at the same time are completely terrified of them, and don’t really even know what they would want to do with girls if they happened to get a girlfriend. It’s also at the age where friendships can start to break down – where diverging interests will mean that sooner or later, you’re going to go in different directions, whether you want to or not. Good Boys is hilarious – the three central performances are all quite good, and they are surrounded by a strong supporting cast. And the movie moves quickly through its 89-minute runtime, and gets out. The film has been called a tween version of Superbad – and that’s a pretty good description.
The film follows a trio of boys through a very chaotic couple of days. Max (Jacob Tremblay, from Room, showing off expert comedic chops), Lucas (Keith L. Williams, who pretty much steals the movie, as almost every line delivery is gold) and Thor (Brady Noon, also good) are sixth graders – inseparable, known as the Bean Bag Boys – because, appropriately enough, they spend much of their time on bean bag chairs. Their life is thrown into chaos when one of the popular boys – Soren (Izaac Wang) – invites Max to a party at his house – a kissing party, and Max gets him to extend the invite to Lucas and Thor as well. The object of Max’s sixth grade crush – Brixlee (Millie Davis – Ms. O from Odd Squad for Canadian parents out there, so hopefully they don’t spend the first half of the movie trying to place her like I did) will be there – and Max will die – literally die – if she kisses someone else. But none of the boys know how to kiss – a google takes them to some sites that show them some things that are, shall we say, more advanced than kissing. Thus sets off a sequence of events that involves them destroying Max’s dad drone, having to get a new one, having in their possession the Molly a couple of high school girls (Molly Gordon, wonderful as she was in Booksmart and Midori Francis) were going to take, losing it, having to get more Molly to get a drone, and on and on and on. It’s like a long night of chaos movie – like Superbad or Booksmart – except of course, it almost all happens in the daytime, and they can only use bikes to get anywhere.
The lead trio are well matched for each other – not just interchangeable pieces. Max’s interest have moved towards girls, while Lucas isn’t quite ready to give up their nerdier pursuits (like Magic the Gathering cards), and Thor loves to sing – and wants to be in the school musical, which of course makes him a loser in the eyes of the popular kids. And as for all sixth graders, what their peers think of them is everything. In that respect, Lucas – the seemingly least mature of the three, is perhaps the most mature. He doesn’t particularly care what others think of him – he’s going to do the right thing no matter what. Which, of course, gets them into more and more trouble.
The movie moves fleetly through its 89-minute runtime – from one comic set piece to another. The three boys do swear – a lot – so much so that even here in Ontario, where ratings are much laxer, the film still got a 18A rating (further proof, in case you need it, that Ratings Boards have no idea what kind of language teenagers already know – Good Boys is probably a lot more accurate in that regard that we would like to admit). The set pieces all work. And beneath them, there is genuine sweetness. Their friendship feels real – they don’t really know that it is headed for failure. And although they are very much interested in girls, as the movie makes clear, they firmly believe in consent. Even if that means gets the consent from a “CPR” dummy. They are, after all, Good Boys.

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