Chris Knight: The amazing thing about Good Boys is the way it manages to transcend the humour of sixth-graders saying inappropriate things
I remember interviewing nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay back in 2015 after the Canadian premiere of Room, in which he plays the son of a kidnap victim portrayed by Brie Larson. Unabashedly fond of Star Wars, he at one point broke into an a cappella version of Duel of the Fates from Episode I: “Dun-dun-duddle-a, dun-dun-duddle-a …”
Well, Tremblay is 12 now, and his first words in the raunchy new comedy Good Boys are more along the lines of “fuddle duddle.” They grow up so fast.
The amazing thing about Good Boys, co-written and directed by Gene Stupnitsky but bearing the unmistakable fingerprints of producers Evan Goldberg, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen (Superbad), is the way it manages to transcend the humour of sixth-graders saying inappropriate things. Not completely, mind you; this isn’t Eighth Grade with boys, and it’s clearly not angling to be a younger Booksmart.
But there remains a good deal of heart along with the potty-mouthed hilarity, which had a recent preview audience chuckling merrily if a little guiltily, this watcher included. Tremblay plays Max, one of a trio of buddies, alongside Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon). They call themselves the beanbag boys, apparently because when they first met many years ago (in kindergarten) they all had beanbags.
Now they have bigger issues. There’s a party coming up, and there will be girls there, and kissing, and none of these pint-sizes Romeos has any idea how to do it, except that it definitely involves consent. Max is particularly concerned because the girl of his dreams (Millie Davis, tragically underwritten) will be present.
So they commandeer Max’s dad’s prized drone to spy on local nymphomaniac Hannah and learn how it’s done. Lucas wonders why she sets things on fire; Max has to explain that being a nymphomaniac means you have sex on both land and water. This is one of a number of wonderful malapropos in the movie, including the notion of being a “social piranha.”
After Hannah (Molly Gordon) and her friend (Midori Francis) down the drone, the boys steal her purse, which leads to a merry chase out of Terminator 2, and a lot of mayhem over some missing Molly; you know, Ecstasy.
The plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it functions as a decent frame on which to hang a variety of jokey scenes, including one with Sam Richardson as a tired cop who wants nothing to do with these juvenile delinquents, another featuring Stephen Merchant as a man looking to buy an elusive trading card, though he’ll take a sex doll in a pinch. It’s that kind of movie.
It’s also the kind of movie that defines tween-agers not as awkwardly straddling the worlds of childhood and adolescence, but as hopping headlong into one and then the other. So on the one hand the kids swear like sailors; on the other, the height of substance abuse among their peers is four pulls at a beer. Not four beers; four sips. And they have a perilous lack of prowess at identifying sex toys. This is probably a good time to mention that while Good Boys is a good film for your inner 12-year-old, you shouldn’t bring your outer 12-year-old, no matter how mature she or he may seem.
Stupnitsky and co-writer Lee Eisenberg (Bad Teacher, Hello Ladies, The Office) provide each of their trio of protagonists with his own personality, which sometimes clash noisily. When walking public-service-announcement Lucas lets slip that his parents are getting a divorce, Thor’s first response is to wonder: “What did you do?” They also act as the angel and the devil on Max’s scrawny shoulders when it comes to questions of sex, drugs and how to get out of being grounded. Because that’s what friends are for.
Good Boys opens across Canada on Aug. 16.