Tween gaff: Good Boys pairs middle school kids with grown up themes

Sixth graders navigate sweet stuff and gross stuff in Good Boys, a comedy from the creative team behind Superbad, Pineapple Express, and Sausage Party. Photo courtesy Universal Pictures Sixth graders navigate sweet stuff and gross stuff in Good Boys, a comedy from the creative team behind Superbad, Pineapple Express, and Sausage Party. Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

The child performers in Good Boys are quite good, and the jokes can be very funny, but what do you do with a movie that forces you to compare it to something better? It’s Superbad for sixth graders in almost every way: Produced by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill, Good Boys follows three friends on a quest to the big party so they can make a move on a crush. There’s some gross stuff, some sweet stuff, an encounter with indifferent police at a convenience store, and a few hard lessons about friendship and growing up—but with sixth graders.

Co-writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky come primarily from TV, most notably “The Office,” and that show’s trademark balance of sweet and silly can be seen here. Our three heroes, Max, Thor, and Lucas (Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, and Keith L. Williams), collectively known as the Beanbag Boys, do everything together. The group’s unity is tested when Max is invited to a kissing party thrown by the coolest kid in school, Soren (Izaac Wang). Max’s crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) will be there, so skipping the party is not an option, but neither is going without his friends, who weren’t directly invited.

The mission becomes learning how to kiss in time for the party. The movie becomes an odyssey of trying to replace a broken drone, returning accidentally stolen MDMA from high school seniors, beating up an entire fraternity, selling a sex doll, and lots and lots of misunderstood uses for sex toys.

Good Boys

R, 100 minutes

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The overlap with Superbad is substantial, but the main difference is that those teenagers know what sex is, they just haven’t done it yet. These kids know there’s a concept called sex that grownups do, but have no context for any of the details. Googling “porn” is no help. Finding their parents’ dildos, bondage mask, anal beads, or sex swing doesn’t register. The only things they know about drugs are what they learned in D.A.R.E., and they don’t know the difference between Molly and heroin.

The movie shines when the kids get to be kids, and silliness triumphs over repetitious gross-out gags. Thinking anal beads are nunchuks is funny. Making the same joke about how they smell, even with slight variations, is a bit boring, and can smother the emotional investment we had in these kids. To compare it to “The Office,” imagine if an entire episode was Dwight jokes. Even if he’s your favorite character, it wouldn’t be fun.

There are ways Good Boys is more mature than Superbad. There are no real villains here. The teenagers might be an obstacle, but they understand that this whole thing could have been a lot simpler if the kids knew anything about the world. The closest thing to a bully relents when he’s shown up. The only actual bad person is a manipulative college guy who doesn’t respect his girlfriend’s independence or intelligence (he gets his in the end). Consent is also a major part of everyone’s actions, and though it plays a role in some jokes, it’s never a punchline. These kids know what consent is and how crucial it is before they even know what kissing is. We’ve come a long way since Revenge of the Nerds.

Good Boys is sometimes very funny and often sweet. The performances are terrific, particularly Williams as Lucas. But with redundant jokes coming too frequently, it’s all a bit too familiar to really resonate in the same way as its spiritual predecessor.

Local theater listings

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 375 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056.

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213.

Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000.


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