They swig beer, drop F-bombs and talk endlessly (and inaccurately) about sex. But what makes “Good Boys” work is that its three 12-year-old protagonists are, at heart, good boys.
Producers Seth Rogen and Adam Goldberg shift their raunchy-but-sweet comedy formula of “Superbad” and “Knocked Up” down to the ‘tween set with this new R-rated comedy, directed by Gene Stupnitsky and written by Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. While the three sixth-grade boys yearn to be cool, older teens, they remain sweetly, innocent clueless about the grown-up world.
The three boys – Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) – call themselves the Bean Bag Boys for the bean bag chairs in their clubhouse. (The fact that they think this is a cool name for a gang is one among many endearing things about them.)
They’ve an inseparable trio who claim they’ll stay friends for life, although middle school is starting to pull them in different directions. Max is becoming obsessed with girls, and has his sights set on going to a “kissing party” where his crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) will be. Thor, meanwhile, tries to hide his love of singing in musicals from his friends for fear of seeming uncool. And Lucas is a cheerful, cautious kid whose passions include “anti-drug campaigns, grilled cheese and rules,” but is shook by the news that his parents are divorcing.
The threadbare plot follows the three boys on a wild day of playing hooky from school, Ferris Bueller-style. Looking for tips for the kissing party, Max uses his father’s drone to spy on two teenage girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). The girls catch him and steal the drone, and the Beanbag Boys retaliate by swiping one of the girls’ purses, which has a bottle full of MDMA inside.
Their attempts to get the drone back and get rid of the drugs has the boys running afoul of cops, college frat boys and school bullies. Often, they’re oblivious to the adult circumstances they find themselves in; coming across a blow-up sex doll, they assume it’s a CPR dummy. Some of the best lines in the film involve the boys confidently trying to use grown-up lingo: “She’s a nymphomaniac. That means she has sex by land AND by sea.”
For all the bad behavior, the movie is adorably protective of the three boys and their innocence, making sure things never get too raunchy. A running joke involves the boys wanting to prove their coolness by breaking the school record for taking the most sips of beer (the school record is three).
The plot is just enough to get the boys from mishap to mishap, and the real draw isn’t the comic situations, but the three young actors and their chemistry together. Tremblay, Oscar-nominated for “Room,” and Noon both get big laughs as well as showing the insecurity and vulnerability beneath their schoolyard bravado.
But the real find is Williams, who gives the rule-loving Lucas a decency and a dignity. Unswayed by trends or worries about looking cool, Lucas is defiantly himself, a role model that both young and old viewers could take a lesson from. In a movie full of good boys, he’s great.