Max (Jacob Tremblay) and his buddies Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) ditch school to embark on a journey that involves accidentally stolen drugs, being hunted by teenage girls, and trying to make it to a party in the R-rated Good Boys
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Willliams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Josh Caras, Will Forte, Mariessa Portelance, Lil Rel Howery, Retta, Michaela Watkins
Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Rating: R, for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout — all involving ’tweens
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
by DAN LYBARGER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | August 16, 2019 at 1:49 a.m.
The sixth-graders in Good Boys get away with a lot of dangerous and regrettable behavior in part because they don’t know as much about drugs and sex as most adult viewers will. Max (Jacob Tremblay, Room), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) retain their innocence even as they flirt with danger.
Credit The Office writing alumni Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (who also directed) with pulling off an astonishing balancing act. Without careful calibration, Good Boys would be more stomach-churning than amusing.
The three ’tweens have the false sense of confidence that comes with having only recently felt the rush of hormones. At the same time, Max is so enamored of his classmate Brixlee (Millie Davis) that he even finds the sight of her sneezing as mesmerizing as the Sistine Chapel.
Because Max is more unassuming than his pushy buddy Thor, the coolest youngster in the school (Izaac Wang) invites him to a party where the boys and girls will be playing spin the bottle. Brixlee is going to be there as well, so Max knows that he has his chance to finally kiss and then marry her.
Much of the charm of Good Boys is that it captures the middle school feeling that every activity has permanent consequence. Max is practically forecasting what retirement home he and Brixlee will occupy.
Lucas, however, is keenly aware of how fleeting love can be. His parents have just told him they’ll be splitting up, and he’s smart enough to know that getting two Taco Tuesdays won’t be all that fun (one will be on Wednesday).
Thor is in love with musicals and bellows Foreigner songs with conviction and finesse. Unfortunately for him, he’s more interested in proving he’s just as tough as his school’s bullies (even though most of their swagger comes from ignorance instead of strength).
For all their flaws, Thor and Lucas are loyal to Max. The three dub themselves “The Beanbag Boys” and have a bond their own parents would envy. Seeing how Max is fretting about executing his first kiss correctly, the lads discover that using Google for tips on romance can lead to some eye-rolling sights that might ensure they remain celibate for life.
Because Max’s Dad (Will Forte) uses a drone for his job, the Beanbag Boys figure that spying on their female neighbors (Molly Gordon, Midori Francis) will be a great way to learn the proper techniques for smooching. Naturally, the lasses resent the surveillance and hold the flying camera hostage.
It only gets more complicated from there. The boys wind up with the content of one of the girl’s purses, which contains a bottle of party drugs. Setting up a simple exchange becomes less likely as the boys cross an off-duty cop and discover that short distances aren’t so short if you have to make them on foot.
Eisenberg and Stupnitsky present a truckload of outrageous situations for the Beanbag Boys to stumble into, but the anxieties they depict are real. It also helps that the three lads are ideally cast. (Tremblay looks as if he will have some type of emotional and physical collapse if he doesn’t kiss his beloved properly.)
It goes without saying that no one should try this at home. And that, despite its young protagonists, Good Boys is targeted at older, if no more mature, audiences.
- DAN LYBARGER