Good Boys looks familiar. Everything from its aggressive marketing campaign to its producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is specifically tailored to make you believe one thing going in: This is Superbad for a new generation. The only problem is, three months ago a little movie called Booksmart beat them to it.
To all outward appearances, Good Boys is a gross, raunchy comedy about three sixth grade boys getting into adult situations. However, to my pleasant surprise, the movie does have quite a sweet center. A simple skeleton plot allows them to go from scene to scene getting into wacky antics, some of which work better than others, but at its core, Good Boys is a story about growing up. Most of the comedy centers not around these boys willingly enacting debauchery but rather their own naivete at the grown-up world they’ve suddenly found themselves in. Each of the boys have their own personal issues to deal with along with the growing fear of drifting apart as they grow older. It really is a sweet story, even though it is told via sex jokes and profanity.
Despite some of the words coming out of their mouths, the three protagonists are really quite cute. The lead of the film is Jacob Tremblay, a young boy who has garnered a reputation as the best child actor in Hollywood, through his truly stellar performances in Room and Wonder. You might think he would be shedding his golden child persona for something a little edgier, but quite the contrary. Part of what makes this movie work, at least for a little while, is the fact that Tremblay leans into his adorableness. The same can be said for scene stealer Keith L. Williams, who line for line made me laugh the most throughout the film.
“It really is a sweet story, even though it is told via sex jokes and profanity.”
While I do admire Good Boys for trying to aspire to something more than a simple studio comedy, more often than not, it’s still a comedy, and not a great one at that. I laughed often enough to be interested scene to scene but it didn’t really bring down the house. Of course, all humor is subjective, so others might get more out of it, but to me the premise had started to wear thin by the middle of what is a very short movie. As I said before, Booksmart, one of the best movies of the year, also feels like a spiritual successor to Superbad and feels both funnier and more heartfelt than Good Boys. Of course, you might say it’s unfair to compare the two, but Booksmart aside, the film’s own marketing compares it to Superbad, a film which, in terms of straight comedy, is immensely funnier than Good Boys. The core of the issue is Good Boys doesn’t have the benefit of a cast of trained comedians, so the three kids mostly deliver each joke the same way. That way is still funny enough, but it isn’t enough to sustain an entire film.
As I’ve said before, comedy is subjective, so this could be a new favorite for many. I’m certain it will live on as a slumber party staple for years forward, as is its legacy. When it came to the humor in the film, I could take it or leave it, but the story’s more personal moments really worked for me. I’d say it’s worth seeing, just to keep studio comedy alive, but really, it’s more of a Netflix watch.