Everyone’s first impression of Jacob Tremblay is best summed up by what they thought of him in Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. Though I wasn’t so much a fan of the film, it was clear that there was a lot of potential waiting to be realized coming out of the young actor but seeing the sort of turn he goes for in Good Boys would only reassure one’s belief in his own talent. In this Seth Rogen-produced comedy, Jacob Tremblay goes unabashedly foul-mouthed, yet he still remains every bit as lovable a sweetheart as you could ever imagine him to be. It seems almost impossible based on the core concept of the film, but as Rogen’s touch would have done for many of his best comedies prior to this, there’s still a lot of heart to be found amidst the raunchiness that the film indulges in. If you’re still out there wondering what the sight of something that seems so innocent could run into the moment it comes into contact with Rogen’s brand of comedy, it’s easy enough to say that Good Boys will leave you little to worry about – for it still reaffirms the talents of its three leads.
Max (Jacob Tremblay) is a 12-year-old boy who hangs out with his best friends Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams). Despite the fact that his best friends are often the subject of ridicule from those he goes to school with, one of the popular kids, Soren (Izaac Wang) decides to invite Max over to what seems to be a kissing party. Panicked because Max does not know how to kiss, what follows is a series of misadventures that come along the way as the boys use a drone which Max is forbidden to touch for the purpose of spying on their neighbours as they are making out: a journey that also involves unwitting contact with sex toys and illegal drugs. On paper, this could easily be written off as a different version of Superbad with children in the leading roles, but like Superbad heart is never absent amidst the raunchiness of the ride, which perfectly suits what remains of the naiveté of the film’s leads in their preteen years.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, perhaps best known for writing episodes of The Office alongside co-writer Lee Eisenberg, Good Boys brings back one’s memories of their lives in middle school, then turns around the seemingly innocent nature of such all on its head. In a way, this also reaches for something more truthful about the lives of tween boys as they near the start of their high school days – but in Stupnitsky and Eisenberg’s approach there’s still a lot of heart to be found in what remains of the boys’ innocence. From the fact that the boys browse through pornography or unknowingly come into contact with sex toys and drugs, there’s a lot of fun to be had with what trouble the boys’ limited understanding of the world as they still come into conflict with their knowledge of ethics and basic sense of right and wrong. It’s not simply limited to the bad things that they think they need to do in order to become the popular kids at their school, but also a lack of general knowledge with the functions of the grown-up world they come into contact with.
Yet underneath the raunchy adventures infused with sex toys, underage beer drinking, and even illegal drugs, there’s also a whole lot of heart to be found too. And thanks to the chemistry that the three leads share, it all comes off as surprisingly cute too. If you’ve wondered what Jacob Tremblay’s involvement in a vulgar comedy would have done to his innocence, there’s absolutely nothing to fear about what he brings to the table here because he still remains as lovable as ever in the lead role. But matched up with a scene-stealing Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon you see a trio of middle schoolers who feel pressured to act as their instincts would tell them, even though their surroundings would say otherwise. No matter what sort of craziness they find themselves getting involved within, seeing a trio of friends trying to make the most of what they can do after skipping a whole day of school to prove themselves worthy for their peers still makes for an adventure full of heart. It’s a film all about these boys seeing the world for what it really is as they all face dilemmas of their own, but as they are also about to enter their teenage years there’s a resonating factor to be found from what remains of their time together too.
Perhaps the concept may already leave some feeling a sense of revolt especially given the popularity of animated shows like South Park which also center around the adventures of foul-mouthed children with very limited grasps on the world they live in, but Good Boys doesn’t stick only towards said gimmick. Listening to the boys swear at one another might be funny for a while but even this schtick gets tiring because it doesn’t stretch beyond the reaches of edgy tweens too. If anything else does make Good Boys worth the ride, it’s the childlike understanding of the world that it possesses akin to that of its protagonists, who curse their way through life without understanding the scope of what such words mean – which keeps it from being anywhere near as disgusting as one could expect it to become. Good Boys may be a raunchy pint-sized comedy, but it’s got more than enough heart to be a good time.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky
Screenplay by Gene Stupnitsky, Lee Eisenberg
Produced by Lee Eisenberg, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver
Starring Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Lil Rel Howery, Will Forte, Midori Francis
Release Date: August 16, 2019
Running Time: 89 minutes