Directed by Gene Stupnitsky
For a movie that features a sex doll and a 12 year old wearing a gimp mask, Good Boys has a lot of heart. It just might have the most heart of any movie that features a sex doll and a twelve year old wearing a gimp mask. Underneath its cussing and sex jokes, underage drinking and drug deals gone bad, Good Boys has a soft, gooey centre. This is a movie where middle-schoolers watch their first porn, have their first kiss with a sex doll, drink their first beer. It's a movie that asks us to recognize that all human relationships take work if they're going to evolve and grow.
And it's full of cussing children and sex jokes.
The script, by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, is pretty wonderful. It balances wide-eyed kid innocence with adult material but it never falls into cynicism. This isn't Porky's starring 12 year olds. This isn't Superbad with preteens. The boys of Good Boys are kids who, at the end of the day, are scared of beer and find porn gross. They completely misunderstand almost everything about sex. And girls are like an alien species. They swear like they just discovered swearing. They dig through their parents' closets and never, ever understand what they find. The kids in Good Boys understand consent, but don't understand that the doll you find in your parents' closet might not be a CPR doll.
But what is Good Boys about? Let's unpack that one. Max, played by Jacob Tremblay, Lucas, played Keith L. Williams, and Thor, played by Brady Noon, have been best friends since kindergarten. They are Bean Bag Boys for life, because, well, they have been bag chairs. They play a Magic: The Gathering stand-in called Accession, they hang out at the skate park, they want to be accepted by the cool kids. Thor is full of false bravado but also has a great singing voice and really wants to take part in the school's production of Rock Star but is intimidated when the cool kids mock him for signing up for an audition. Lucas is the moral centre of the group, he can never lie, he always has to confess. And Max, with his sad eyes and crush on Brixlee (Millie Davis), is on the outer orbit of the cool kids.
Max gets invited to a party by alpha cool kid Soren and negotiates a plus-tow for Lucas and Thor, who are deemed "too random". Soren drops the bomb that the party is a "kissing party" and of course Max can't admit to Soren and his entourage that he has never kissed a girl, that he doesn't know how to kiss a girl, that the whole idea fills him with terror. And so Max, Thor, and Lucas try to answer the Big Questions. Like, how to kiss, after getting consent of course. And what are tampons for? And do nymphomaniacs set fires? Their journey takes them to the internet ("is that what happens when you get a step-mother?"), and to spying on the teenage girls next door with Max's father's drone. Molly Gordon as Hannah and Midori Francis as Lily are as close as Good Boys has to villains.
But Good Boys' secret weapon is its inability to hazard a cliche. The boys are charming, the cool kids are cool, the girls are mysterious, the teenage girls want their drugs back. But every character feels like they have a life outside of the frame. Hannah and Lily might be the villains, but they approach the boys with casual amusement and exasperation.
There are so many note perfect touches to Good Boys. The kids' names in Good Boys are a thing of beauty. From Thor to Soren, from Bixlee to Scout. There's an Atticus in there as well. They're wonderful and believable and say so much about the parents we rarely meet. There are homages to Terminator 2, to Ferris Bueller that never feel forced. The boys' aversion to drugs, their distaste of women not being respected, the frat boy who gets a paintball to the genitals after yelling "she dropped the charges". There's been much hand-wringing and clickity-clack online about the place of comedy in the post #MeToo world. Good Boys shows that humour can not only be found and but it can be vibrant and dangerous and it can hurt your abdomen in a darkened theatre. And you know what? It's a hell of lot funnier than the Revenge of the Nerds rape scene.
But for all that is great about Good Boys, Keith L. Williams shines above them all. He is so good. He is Good Boys' MVP. Lucas is not only incapable of lying, he is compelled to confess to any authority figure the most minor of transgressions. A lesser talent, Lucas drags the movie down, he becomes the unintended villain. But Keith L. Williams makes him funny and understandable and, above everything, charming. Some people can't help but try to pull cons, Lucas can't help but tell the truth. He is so damned funny. His parents are played by Lil Rel Howery and Retta, so yeah, the kid better bring the funny. And he does.
Good Boys is a movie about that moment in nearly everyone's childhood. When we discovered that some people filled our stomachs with vomiting butterflies. When we discovered other interests, other friends. When we discovered swearing and would drop f-bombs the way other people breathe. But never in front of an adult, and especially not in front anyone's parents. Anyway, Good Boys is a movie about childhood but it's most definitely not for children. Unless you want some uncomfortable questions about beads and swings and gimp masks and molly, just leave the kids at home.