Good Boys is basically Superbad with 12-year-olds instead of teenagers; a raunchy tween comedy, instead of a raunchy teen comedy. Imitation may be flattery, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee quality, and Good Boys is nowhere near as funny or inspired as its influence. It’s entertaining enough to pass the time, but mostly just inoffensive. That faint praise is extra damning when you consider just how hard the movie tries to be outrageous.
Like Superbad, Good Boys takes place mostly over the course of a day, with a plot that riffs on The Nightingale and the Rose. You know, the “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me” kind of a thing that just keeps on escalating. Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are neighbors and best buds. Just entering the 6th grade, their obsessions are the usual ones of 12-year-old boys: girls, looking cool, etc. The film’s shenanigans kick off when the Beanbag Boys (as they call themselves…because they all have beanbags) are invited to a make-out party. Inexperienced and terrified of looking as such, they seek instruction. That innocent quest escalates quickly. Before they know it, the kids skip school and become embroiled in a madcap dash through town to replace a McGuffin, an expensive drone belonging to Max’s dad, which is stolen early in their exploits. Meanwhile, they have an unwanted canister of Molly in their possession and the girls next door are hot on their tail, trying to get their drugs back before a Kendrick Lamar concert that night.
The problem here is the logic behind these escalations. The reasons we go from point A to point B are laborious, stretching credulity to the breaking point. The kids, for example, first turn to the internet for guidance on kissing. (Makes sense). This naturally leads to porn. (Ditto.) But the kids explicitly look up porn from the get go, never once considering simply googling “how to kiss.” Why? Because if they did, they’d get the answer, and the movie would be over.
And when porn doesn’t give them any answers, they turn to that expensive drone mentioned earlier to spy on their pretty, teenage neighbor, Hannah (Molly Gordon), in the random hope that they might see her kiss. I ask. Does any of this remotely make sense? I know. Logic may not be a 12-year-olds strong suit; they’re young minds who don’t know any better. But it’s a little much, and after a while it becomes increasingly difficult to explain all of the absurdities away with “they’re just foolish kids.”
Okay, but it’s a comedy. So maybe it can get away with weak plotting by being funny. But that’s where the “stupid kid” excuse becomes another problem: it’s the main crux of the film’s humor, and it doesn’t hold up. Though the children are cute, do we really want to spend a whole 90 minutes with three kids who act just like kids? Three kids who are somewhat dumb? True, the movie is smart enough to let them be dumb. Unwise to the ways of the world, yet acting like they know everything, we were all like that as children. We can relate. And some of it is funny. “I’m going to become a social piranha,” Thor exclaims at one point. But basing a whole movie around this type of joke just taxes one’s patience.
The rest of the humor derives from the kids swearing. A well placed “f*ck” earns a chuckle from me, especially when coming from a kid. But c’mon, how many times can a child swear before it stops being funny? Good Boys aims to find out, falling back on this same joke out again and again until the film’s end.
It has its moments, a late showdown in a frat house mixes the outrageous equally with the funny, and the film’s coda is sweet with a hint of bitter that betrays a bit of world-weary wisdom at the film’s heart. Overall, though, Good Boys is pretty one-note. And with the protagonists pre-pubescent voices taking up much of the film’s soundtrack, its one note is high pitched and wears out its welcome pretty quickly.