Good Boys review: A charming, puerile assault against toxic masculinity

Considering 80 per cent of the script consists of swearing and sex jokes, it’s a strange but welcome feeling to walk away with hope for the future generation

Clarisse Loughrey
Wednesday 14 August 2019 14:38 BST
Good Boys - Trailer

Dir: Gene Stupnitsky. Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, Keith L Williams, Will Forte, Molly Gordon, and Midori Francis. 15, 90 mins

Call it puerile. Call it dumb, but sometimes it’s just funny when a child says the word “f**k”.

Adulthood has made cursing feel largely pedestrian, so there’s a thrill in harking back to the days when uttering anything stronger than “crap” was akin to committing a petty crime. It’s those simpler times that Universal’s latest R-rated comedy, Good Boys, wants to revisit. And while it obviously won’t win everybody over, those who are more open to its charms will be rewarded several times over.

The film’s central trio – Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L Williams) – are inseparable, naming themselves the “bean bag boys” because, well, they own a bunch of bean bags. Max, however, has found himself in favour with the coolest kid in class, Soren (Izaac Wang), landing an invite to his very first kissing party. There’s one problem: he has no idea how to kiss. With the aid of his best buddies, he sets off on an elaborate crusade which sees him steal his father’s drone, get it confiscated by two teen girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis), and end up with a vitamin bottle filled with MDMA.

The film’s marketing has focused mainly on the clout of its producers, Superbad’s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It’d be easy, then, to call this a middle-school redux of their 2007 coming-of-age comedy and leave it at that. And, to some extent, it’s a fair comparison. Much like Rogen and Goldberg’s back-catalogue (which also includes Pineapple Express and Sausage Party), Good Boys gets high off its own sense of immaturity. And there’s a joy to be found in that.

Most of the humour stems from the boy’s complete ignorance about the adult world: they think cum is pronounced “coom”, that Molly is a person and that anal beads are nunchucks. It’s all convincingly sold by the film’s hilarious young leads who, for the most part, prevent the more repetitive jokes from feeling stale. Tremblay, Hollywood’s most angelic child actor, sells lines about sex toys with the sincere conviction of someone two months into a Broadway run of Oliver!.

It’s Williams’s Lucas, however, that proves to be the film’s most endearing presence. He is honest and pure to a fault, with a lecture about how “drugs give you a false sense of reality” always up his sleeve. And therein lies the key to why Good Boys works so well as a rowdy summer comedy. It has real heart. Under the direction of Gene Stupnitsky, who collaborated with Lee Eisenberg on the script, the film does a surprisingly good job of navigating the confusing reality of preteen life. There’s a running joke about how a kid’s cool factor is determined by how many sips of beer they can take (three is a record). What’s silly to us means everything to these boys, because they’re at the age when they feel like they should be growing up, but have no idea what exactly that means. While Max, Lucas, and Thor’s motto might be, “bean bag boys for life”, their friendship isn’t that iron-clad. No one’s friendship is at that age.

Good Boys also has a surprisingly decent grasp on what it means to grow up in an environment where feminism is the social norm, but where three boys who’ve only really hung out with each other still treat girls like an alien species (their idea of what tampons do is, unsurprisingly, completely off the mark). They may not know a lot – when called a misogynist, Max replies: “I’ve never massaged anyone!” – but they still have the basics of respect and consent ingrained in them. The film even builds up to a climactic showdown in a frat house where the three boys launch a literal assault against toxic masculinity. Considering 80 per cent of the script consists of swearing and sex jokes, it’s a strange but welcome feeling to walk away with hope for the future generation.

And for a genre that’s always in danger of slipping into cruelty and mean-spiritedness, it’s essential to this film’s success that the title Good Boys actually rings true, at least on a deeper level. Lined up against some of this year’s other more heartfelt offerings, including Booksmart and Long Shot, Good Boys offers further proof that putting a little humanity in our comedy always gets the best results.

Good Boys is released in UK cinemas on 16 August

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