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March 12, 2019

‘Good Boys’ Review: Humor and Heart Headline This Maturely Childish Riot [SXSW]

Good Boys review

There is, despite countless American Pie and Road Trip spin-offs arguing otherwise, an art to shaping R-rated comedies. Rawdog raunchiness and “F-bombs” alone don’t equate to laugh-a-minute genius.

Take a movie like Good Boys. Gene Stupnitsky’s hilarious adolescent comicality boasts heart, message, and humor in the precisely right places. Lesser creators would’ve leaned heavily on cursing “tweens” thinking with their pre-pubescent naughty parts, yet Stupnitsky and co-writer Lee Eisenberg dare to focus on a heartwarming story about coming of age with sixth-grade understanding, and then fill in the anecdotal kinky playthings and pornography gags.

Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are inseparable best friends known as the “Bean Bag Boys.” Not exactly the coolest playground trio, but that’s until Soren (Izaac Wang) invites Max and his crew to a basement kissing party. The only problem? No Bean Bagger knows how to smooch. In an effort to spy on sexually experienced older neighbors, the boys hover Max’s father’s drone above two high school hotties (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). Unfortunately, things go wrong to the point where three underage children carrying “Molly” pills need to buy a new state-of-the-art drone before Max’s dad (played by Will Forte) finds out.

Good Boys is an age-specific mission impossible(ish) proficient in recreating honest truths about 11-to-12-year-old inexperience, lensed thoughtfully for audiences of all ranges. The gags are great: things as small as Max’s crew misusing words or phrases such as being a social “piranha” instead of “pariah,” mislabeling disturbingly lifelike sex dolls as CPR dummies, and their incorrect tampon insertion assumptions. Stupnitsky and Eisenberg do a splendid job allowing Max, Lucas, and Thor to discover the world around them through blind childhood curiosity, so nostalgically close to home and entertaining in blissful ambivalence. It’s a movie that understands all the cluelessness and faking and embarrassing discoveries that define cul-de-sac, pre-adulthood life.

Viewers big and small should see Good Boys, R-rating be damned. In the year 2019, Stupnitsky and Eisenberg are heavy-handed and responsible with themes that should be instilled early in personality development. As Max goes to french Thor’s CPR dummy (“It’s sticky,” one of the film’s biggest laughs), he’s interrupted when listing rules for kissing. What’s he reminded by his observing best friends? “First you need consent.” Good Boys steers to scrub toxic masculinity while minds are still developing, repeating this quote to ingrain respectful treatment in a genre in which women often end up as objects or conquests or someone else’s motivation.

Growing up, moving on, finding one’s self, and most importantly, how to program systemic change early, often, and sincerely, all while promoting inclusivity – be it race or LGBT recognition on screen. All of that, in this movie? Believe it.

Good Boys packs in outrageous Hollywood sensationalism and juvenile reminiscing with no shortage of pint-sized but loudly projected humor. What happens when three sixth-graders attempt to purchase narcotics inside a weed-hazy frat house? Crotches are struck by paintball ammunition as a full-on heist escape unfolds with action-hero gravitas (crushed beer pong tables, snapped Greek-branded paddles). How will Max’s boys cross a busy highway? Like invincible Frogger. Max’s lovestruck hypnosis by crush Brixlee’s (Millie Davis) spell, Thor’s beer sippin’ theater kid under bully scrutiny, Lucas’ devotion to blurting truths and letting God take control – the boys’ differences allow for clashing commentaries and the most genuine situational reactions.

Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, and Keith L. Williams prove youthful actors can carry “mature” comedies without the “maturity.” All the younglings here exude their age, dealing with bullies or questioning the naughty puzzle that is pornography (step-mother fetishism, no less) or handling their parents’ divorce. Lucas cries openly, Thor struggles with identity thanks to peer pressure, and they all fear moving on without one another as interests drift from collective to unique. It’s the same kind of individual assurance as Ralph Breaks The Internet or The Lego Movie 2, only with more weaponized anal beads and Terminator parkour chase sequences when Midori Francis’ hot pursuit of Max’s biker gang climaxes. The Bean Bag Boys are ride-or-die, but swept up in emotional undercurrents so well explored by each leading lad – and don’t forget about Soren’s scene-stealing cafeteria kingpin.

Good Boys is not a studio comedy to underestimate. Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg evoke all the explorative awkwardness of being foolishly young once again, like being aroused by big-breasted computerized orcs or enacting pre-developed “stupidity” as a means of avoiding scold without sacrificing storytelling depth. Rock of Ages middle school numbers, police run-ins, fuckboys getting paintballed in the nards: Good Boys has it all and is home before dinnertime at a brisk 90 minutes. It’s an unbelievable road trip descent into challenged friendships that’ll soothe your soul and tickle your funny bone twenty times over. If children are our future, I hope Good Boys is subsequently the future of conscious but dynamically chaotic hilarity.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

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