Shout out to all the parents out there struggling through the summer holidays. With August in full swing you are probably starting to run out of ideas for entertaining restless young ones before school comes back over the horizon. A trip to the cinema is always a safe bet, right? A couple of hours in the dark and quiet with a bag of popcorn to keep them satisfied. Before picking this child lead picture based solely off the poster for your next outing, however, it might pay off to do a little more research about Good Boys!
It might star a bunch of kids, but rest assured that this movie is a solid R! Good Boys tells the story of best friends Max (Jacob Tremblay,) Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) as they enter sixth grade. With kissing parties, ditching school, mistakenly smuggling drugs and trying to break the beer sipping class record on their minds (three sips, by the way), the narrative unfolds as a ‘day in the life’ caper that contains considerably more F bombs and dick jokes than you might expect from a film about twelve year olds.
For the most part, the simple truth is that Good Boys is just a lot of silly fun. Nobody in the world is going into this film looking for something deep and meaningful, and although there is a surprising amount of room for some rumination on the nature of ever-changing childhood friendships, 90% of the movie is funny kids swearing for shock value, getting into adult situations that they don’t fully understand, and generally just having a scaled down adventure of the Hangover or Superbad variety.
That being said, it’s fair to say that Good Boys isn’t a total home run. Whilst the chuckles are provided at a steady enough rate, at the same time it does feel as though the film relies a tad too much on the novelty and shock value of children swearing for comic effect, rather than actually infusing the narrative with solid comedy that doesn’t need a ‘fuck’ or a ‘shit’ thrown in. In terms of entertainment value for a near 30 year old like myself, the film indulges in a lot of ‘misunderstanding’ comedy that is directly intended to be funny for adult viewers. Sex dolls are confused for CPR dolls, anal beads are confused for necklaces, sex swings for cool ceiling chairs, you get the gist. It’s not that it isn’t funny, it’s just that it starts to get a little one not after a while.
There are certainly points where the lowest hanging fruit is picked rather than reaching for something smarter, but perhaps I’m just being too picky about what is essentially a future tween sleepover classic. Do kids even watch movies at sleepovers anymore?
Mercifully, the filmmakers have picked some really fun and enjoyable kids in the leading roles. Star of the show of course is Jacob Tremblay who already has a better CV than many adults in Hollywood. As Max, he takes on the role of the ‘hormonal one’, the smallest of the group but the one who is most urgently and trouble-causingly into girls. Tremblay is extremely watchable from start to finish, and it’s clear to see that he is a cut above the rest when it comes to acting in the slightly more sensitive moments of the narrative. One of the leading child actors of the moment and a no brainer in terms of casting for a fun story like this.
As the nervous, rule abiding Lucas, Keith L. Williams is another example of perfect casting. Contending with his parent’s upcoming divorce and fighting the urge to run and hide from his friend’s antics, Williams is actually responsible for the majority of the comedy within the film that doesn’t rely on dropping an F bomb. The character’s tendency to zig when everyone else is zagging is really fun to watch and Williams executes it perfectly.
It feels mean to single out any child performer for being a weak link, but there is no denying that Brady Noon as Thor draws the short end of the stick. His character is stuck between wanting to be seen as ‘cool’ whilst secretly harbouring a love for musical theatre, a trope we have seen countless times before at this point. Whether it’s down to the performance or the tired traits of the character, there is just something about Thor that doesn’t achieve audience connection quite like the other two boys. As part of the film’s enjoyable central trio though, both the actor and character come nowhere close to ‘ruining’ anything.
Overall, you could say that Good Boys is a movie that fills an underserved niche within cinema. How many R-rated films can you think of that feature essentially an all child cast? It’s a kid’s movie that kids aren’t actually allowed to see yet, which is always a strange one, but I can absolutely see it being the kind of film that twelve, thirteen, fourteen year olds watch and have a slightly risqué blast with for many years to come.