Good Boys is directed by Gene Stupnitsky and focuses on a group of sixth graders who call themselves The Beanbag Boys. They spend their days biking, auditioning for school musicals and partaking in beer “sipping” contests. Their world is turned upside when Max (Jacob Tremblay) is invited to a party that will also be attended by his big-time crush Brixlee (Millie Davis). Fearing he will have to kiss Brixlee, an act he has no clue how to pull off, he enlists the help of the other Beanbag Boys, Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) to figure out just how kissing is done. This leads them first to look up porn, which horrifies them, and then to spy on their neighbors using a drone that belongs to Max’s Dad. They get caught by the neighbors, and much of the plot focuses on the tweens’ quest to reclaim the drone.
It’s a rather slight plot, but The Beanbag Boys’ antics provide some big laughs. The young actors have great chemistry and comedic chops. The trouble they get in to mostly feels like it develops naturally. Watching this film will probably take most viewers back to that age when so many things about sex and adulthood were intimidating, mysterious and confusing. I also loved that these sixth graders don’t talk the way sixth graders talk in most other films. Whenever I see a movie where the main characters are middle schoolers, I spend a lot of my time having to suspend disbelief at how PG-rated the dialogue is. I can’t stand films where middle schoolers talk like they are around their parents the entire time. We were all twelve once, and while I can’t speak for everyone, whenever adults weren’t around, I cursed like I was in a Scorsese film (and I’m not talking about Hugo).
There are a few jokes that don’t land well and a couple others that get repetitive, but I was never bored and I felt like I was constantly laughing at something. The film is elevated by a third act where the jokes take a back seat to some surprisingly touching life lessons that flow naturally out of what has transpired rather than being tacked on.
This is the second comedy this year that begs comparisons to Superbad, and also the second one that is in many ways an improvement. While The Beanbag Boys have a couple momentary lapses in judgement, such as spying on their neighbor to learn how to kiss, they are far more positive examples of young men than McLovin and Co. It’s also to the film’s credit that the spying victims, Hannah (Molly Gordon) and her friend Lily (Midori Francis) end up playing a major role in the story. They get to be in on many of the jokes, rather than just being plot devices for the male characters.
I should mention that Seth Rogen is a producer on this film, and while it is far from an indictment of everything wrong with Superbad, it is nice see him tip his hat in a way to the changing dynamics in teen comedies in the wake of #MeToo. Rather than complain, as some comedians have, about being held to “new standards,” Rogen seems to have embraced the moment. Good Boys is far from revolutionary, but a studio backed comedy that takes time to emphasize the importance of consent is a step in the right direction.