‘Good Boys’ is one of the best gross-out comedies of recent memory, centred around a group of 12-year-old boys.
The secret to its success is it recognises that kids are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for and yet they are not nearly as worldly as they like to make out. You’ll laugh at some of the crazy things these young men get up to, but you’ll laugh more as they relay their perspective.
For the most part, the story takes place over one of those extremely action-packed days that occur in Hollywood comedies. It starts out simple enough, the boys Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) are just trying to score beer and acquire knowledge on kissing girls ahead of going to a party at a popular kid’s house. It escalates from there with visits to frat houses to score drugs, retrieve drones and sell 'CPR' dolls.
The script from Lee Eisenberg and director Gene Stupnitsky is smart, filthy, and full of heart. It understands the roles that these three boys play in each other’s lives and how their loyalty can become frayed but never compromised. Note in particular how Max is the leader but often when they are discussing a course of action the camera frames him centre with Lucas and Thor on each of his shoulders coaxing him towards riskier or safer choices reflective of their personalities.
Each of the boys has a clear arc and influence on the others and none of the decisions they make feel out of need for plot convenience but in keeping with their established character. When was the last time you saw that kind of care and attention in a mainstream comedy?
All three young actors are great in their roles, they’re not cute or seem to be sprouting dialogue written by adults. They act like kids, they sound like kids, their swear words and sick burns feel like something they picked up somewhere and don’t always know how to deploy but know can be useful. The performances are totally three-dimensional, nuanced and involving.
Visually the film is really neat, taking for the most part a low-key approach while referencing other genres. You might spot influences from cop movies with regards to drug exchanges and chases. Yet the filmmakers don’t lay it on thick and make it a parody. This restraint is appreciated, keeping the film honest and true to its story and setting.
This is a wonderful capture of that pivotal moment in life when you start to realise, you’re growing up and the world gets a little bigger. Which makes it sound really highbrow and it is one of the smartest films of this year, but more importantly, it's funny. The kind of funny that makes you laugh out loud and slap your thighs in joy at the inventiveness and truth of the joke. So yes, ‘Good Boys’ is clever, naughty, funny, and one damn good film.