I’m not going to lie: Good Boys was right up my alley. Vulgar, brash, sweet, and completely insane, Good Boys doesn’t let up on the funny for one second, ensuring laughs from the end of the opening logos to the beginning of the closing credits. (There are no post-credits sequences, so you can immediately go to relieve your bladder from how hard you have to hold it during the movie.) Yes, this movie is infamous for the fact that its young stars wouldn’t be able to see it on their own in theaters, and for good reason: this uproarious comedy doesn’t give a shit, plain and simple.
Think about films like Superbad or The Night Before, where a group of close-knit guys go through a night of hell at the mere hint or promise of womanly affection. You know the type of comedy I’m talking about – bodily mishaps, car accidents, run-ins with the law, drugs aplenty, and a reckoning of truth among these characters which threatens to destroy their entire friendship. Here’s the thing: these two films feature males old enough to at least drive or make semi-informed decisions.
In this particular film, do you think the titular “good boys” – who have just started sixth grade – can make any kind of decision with rational thought and wisdom? Hell no, which is precisely why the throw-caution-to-the-wind haphazardness of this film appeals to us. It is a pure, unfettered connection to the unbridled id, ego, and superego we had as children, when we had to stick to whatever came out of our mouths. You know, like Chunk from The Goonies who claimed Michael Jackson used his bathroom, that he saved a bunch of people from a nursing home fire, or that he ate his weight in Godfather’s Pizza.
Good Boys is full of this kind of braggadocio only preteen children can muster, exaggerated to the nth degree and taken as far as the exaggeration can go. Writers/directors Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (although Stupnitsky is the only credited director) don’t stop at the end of the exaggeration; they use it to power whatever’s cooking in the next scene, building a frenetic house of cards waiting to fall over and blow where the winds take it.
It starts with Max (Jacob Tremblay), who’s first seen changing up his video game avatar to a large-breasted female orc for the express purpose of satisfying his hormones. As the representation of the id, he’s the only one of his trio of friends – so dubbed The Beanbag Boys – who shows an interest in girls, which he says makes him more mature than the other two. He gets invited to a “kissing party” where he might get a chance to smooch Brixlee (Millie Davis), the girl of his dreams, but only if she consents (a welcome statement on the part of the filmmakers).
Talented singer Thor (Brady Noon) is next, but he’s still all about playing the card game Ascension and hoping to score a lead role in his school’s rendition of Rock of Ages. As the ego, he’s disaffected by Max’s sudden obsession with females; part of his reaction turns him jaded at the prospect of the school play, denying he wants to continue singing. He’s the most insecure of the bunch, allowing bullying taunts to get the best of him and drive him from what he loves doing most.
We’re rounded out by the overly-truthful superego which takes the form of the sweet and guileless Lucas (Keith L. Williams); he’s like that kid you knew you could read like an open book. He’s utterly incapable of telling a lie, even if it threatens to get his friends in serious trouble, legal or otherwise. Unassuming and genuinely caring, Lucas also has troubles of his own: his parents spring an announcement of their intent to divorce during dinner. And what’s worse is that this trend of splitting up seems to be spreading as he sees Max and Thor fighting over who’s got the right idea about life at their tender age.
Mix the three together and you’ve got one volatile crew constantly one hairsbreadth away from serious injury or actual death. Stupnitsky and Eisenberg’s script pushes the boundaries of good taste, writing them into extremely adult situations for the sake of the humor of seeing things through the eyes of these kids. By God, it works. Their interpretations of grownup behavior are guaranteed to make you howl with shocked, disgusted, and genuine laughter. It’s like watching three boys playing soccer, only all they know is “ball goes into goal” without knowing the first thing about dribbling, passing, or even running.
Through the naiveté of childhood, we’re shown that Thor’s parents have a serious sexual bent which involves ball gags, gimp masks, all manner of toys, and a lifelike mannequin which the boys refer to as “a CPR doll.” Not that they have any idea how these things are meant to be used; their frame of reference is Halloween masks and self-defense weapons. Their recurring encounters with two older neighborhood girls remind us how idealistic we were about drugs, when we cast aspersions on those who used these substances, not having learned to live and let live.
Another big factor around this time of our lives was peer pressure, a battering ram Good Boys doesn’t hesitate to wield upon its leads. Exaggerated as this film may be, times have certainly changed and what these kids have to deal with isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility. One circumstance finds Thor given a pejorative nickname after refusing to have a sip of beer with the cool kids. In another instance, complete with the shoulder devil and angel duo (played literally by Thor and Lucas, respectively) egging him on, Max wrestles with using his father’s work drone to spy on one of the aforementioned neighborhood girls and her boyfriend to learn how to kiss. And when the drone is irreparably damaged, the bulk of this film’s plot is staged around the lengths to which the boys go to replace it.
However, if these kids didn’t give into these cajolements and similar entreatments at least some of the time, would this movie be as pointedly funny or give these kids the lesson they need? George Carlin once said, “Every joke needs one exaggeration. Every joke needs one thing to be way out of proportion.” The entirety of Good Boys is way out of proportion, and gleefully so. In this film’s universe, fortune favors the outrageous, and Max, Lucas, and Thor tip every sacred cow over on their way to growing up in their own fashion.