Stealing a beer from my uncle’s fridge and running off to share it among the four of us behind the nearby grammar school used to be a thing for me, my two cousins, and my little sister (who we were corrupting, since we were tweens and she wasn’t). Then one day when they were going to come to my house for a sleepover, we stashed a beer in my sister’s purse where my mom discovered it. Busted. Sleepover canceled. Beer filching days over.
This I write as an intro to Good Boys, a film raucous and ribald and charming and absolutely locked into that moment of transition between childhood and full-on adolescence. Writers Gene Stupnitsky (who makes his feature directing debut) and Lee Eisenberg, both one-time The Office writers, have called forth their inner tweens to regale audiences with the tale of three sixth-graders who are trying to replace a drone they accidentally destroyed before anyone realizes it’s even missing, keep the molly that has fallen into their possession from the teenage girls it belongs to, and go to a kissing party at a cool kid’s house. If this all sounds like Superbad: The Junior High Years, well, Superbad star Jonah Hill and that comedy’s writers, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, are all producers on Good Boys.
Someone in the movie suggests that the lifelong friends at the heart of the movie are only BFFs because they live in the same neighborhood, have always gone to the same schools, and their parents are friends. There may be some truth to that as these kids—who call themselves The Beanbag Boys, because they share beanbag chairs—are so very different. Max (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) is the one in the group the cool kids recognize as one of their own and is the apparent future ladies man of the trio, currently nursing a crush on classmate Brixlee (Millie Davis). Lucas (Keith L. Williams) is tall for his age, making some people mistake him for someone older; grappling with family issues; and he would rather not get involved with some of his friends shenanigans since he likes following the rules. Thor (Brady Noon) is as blustery as his name suggests but also bullied in part because his angelic singing voice makes him stand out.
At heart, this really is a story about good boys. Max, Lucas, and Thor are sweet kids. Their hormones are raging and they try to feign sophistication none of them possess—several jokes revolve around all they don’t know about sex. Their troubles mostly stem from youthful ignorance of consequences (not to mention feelings of invincibility) and they labor under the childish conviction that while they’ve done a wrong thing, they can fix it, effecting a do-over and evading punishment.
The laughs are frequent and long—like Superbad, this is a comedy with scenes designed to make people laugh so hard they cry. And while this is a movie no tween can see—not without a parent or guardian, anyway—it’s one that embraces that age and its last gasp of innocence with affection. It also includes a scene from a middle-school production of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages that alone is worth the price of admission. A period of life most people would not choose to return to proves fertile ground for comic gold. –Pam Grady