Directed by: Gene Stupnitsky
Premise: Three sixth grade boys (Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon) ditch school and pass through a day of misadventures in the lead up to a party.
What Works: Good Boys is an impressive comedy. It comes from the filmmakers of Knocked Up, Neighbors, and Superbad and like those movies Good Boys is a story about a group of males and the bonds between them as they get into some crazy situations. But unlike some of these other pictures, Good Boys is impressively reigned in and focused. A lot of comedies following the lead of Judd Apatow have been too long but Good Boys runs a brisk 89 minutes and it is consistently funny with a variety of comedy including physical gags, sexual humor, and comedy of errors with one joke building upon another. The plot is mostly a framework for the set pieces with these boys going from one situation to the next but the scenarios are inventive and executed quite well. Good Boys also succeeds due to its cast of young actors including Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon. The movie asks a lot of these actors and they are game for all the outrageousness but also deliver on the dramatic moments. Admittedly, Good Boys is funny precisely because it involves pre-teen characters; if the same story were told with characters about five years older it would not be as funny. But Good Boys has an authentic grasp of its characters and their age. Their friendships feel real as do their anxieties about social status and girls and their grasp of adult subjects. And there’s a bit of wisdom to this movie. In our youth it is difficult to imagine growing apart from our best friends and a lot of films reinforce that idea. Good Boys recognizes the impermanence of childhood friendships and the end of the movie actually achieves some gravitas.
What Doesn’t: Enjoyment of Good Boys is contingent upon the viewer’s taste. The movie was produced by the filmmakers of Neighbors, Sausage Party, and Superbad including Jonah Hill, Seth Rogan, and Evan Goldberg and Good Boys has the same bawdy humor of those films. In this case, the sex gags and foul language involve pre-teen characters and that could be an outrage too far for some viewers. Good Boys is a bro comedy and the movie follows a predictable pattern in which the boys’ friendship is tested, broken, and then reconciled. The narrative framework is obvious and shows through. In a few places the complications are forced by irrational character choices and incredulous coincidences. That’s most obvious in one particular scene. Part of what made Knocked Up and Neighbors work so well was how seriously they played the dramatic moments. The breakup scene in Good Boys isn’t pitched right. It comes across jokey and halfhearted instead of conveying real loss.
Bottom Line: Good Boys is one of the best comedies of recent years. The film is consistently funny but in all its crudeness Good Boys manages to say something sensitive and nuanced about growing up.
Episode: #763 (August 25, 2019)