Film reviews and more since 2009

Good Boys (2019) review

Dir. Gene Stupnitsky

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★★

Shamelessly vulgar and breakneck in its pacing, Good Boys makes for a good night out with the guys; a good night out with those who rode with you during the bad times and were there to soak in the great times as well. Its snappy, impulsive humor and one-liners have questionable staying power, but this is nonetheless a good time at the movies, buoyed by an adorable Jacob Tremblay and a scene-stealer in Keith L. Williams.

The film follows three sixth-grade boys, who bill themselves as “the beanbag boys,” one of the most precious squad names I’ve heard in a minute. Led by Max (Jacob Tremblay, Wonder), the de facto leader, the group consists of his best pals, Lucas (Keith L. Williams), a sensitive young boy who reminded me too much of myself (“my mom is my best friend!”), and Thor (Brady Noon), a rowdier soul with a passion for musicals. As loyal as Lucas and Thor are, neither seems too concerned about helping Max muster his status as one of the cool kids, especially when Max is chastised by one of the popular boys for suggesting he invite the two to the kid’s party. “They’re so random,” the kid replies.

What semblance of a plot there is revolves around the boys trying to outwit a pair of older girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis), who catch the three spying on them with Max’s father’s drone. The girls refuse to return the toy, prompting the boys to steal one of their bags as petty revenge. There is a party the three need to get to, but it’s far less urgent of a matter than it was for the two gals in Booksmart. The bulk of the picture deals with the boys’ complete and utter cluelessness when it comes to sex, sex toys, and the vulgar words they hurl at everyone and everything. For example, they find a set of “a-nal beads” in addition to a tampon. “Girls shove it up their buttholes to stop babies from coming out,” Max confidently tells his troupe. “An eighth grader told me that.”

As was the case with Seth MacFarlane’s Ted, and how many of the laughs came from its core concept, if you’re an immature dolt like me, and can’t get over young boys swearing at each other and talking pretty much exactly like middle school boys do, there’s a good chance your laughs will be sustained throughout the picture. The film is largely plotless, but for as loose as it is, it’s briskly paced and provides laugh-a-minute humor for the appropriate audience. But a film like this wouldn’t be half as memorable if it weren’t for its charismatic leads. As noted, the three kids are terrific, and Midori Francis is pretty strong too, giving a talented, physical performance.

The film was written by Gene Stupnitsky (also director) and Lee Eisenberg (Bad Teacher, several episodes of the American show The Office), and the two men supply no shortage of ribald moments in which the characters find themselves. Amidst all the laughter is a darker observation about the world today, where there is no protection for young kids nowadays, with technology exposing them to an underworld of perversions, plus run amok with adults uninterested in preserving the innocence of children anymore. It has light touches of highlighting a culture desensitized to illicit material, and Stupnitsky and Eisenberg assure Good Boys isn’t empty in that regard.

I do hold some skepticism in believing Good Boys will be as funny in the future. Contemporary comedies like Superbad and Knocked Up, I argue, will be akin to Animal House and American Pie insofar that I firmly believe future generations will find them funny and mostly relatable. Good Boys throws so much at you that the element of surprise is likely to wear off in subsequent viewings, not to mention the broadstrokes of the plot in the film lessen its ability to be as relatable to young kids. Seth, Evan, and McLovin in Superbad will live on thanks to the undercurrent of tenderness in their relationship with one another, which tied that film together. Good Boys‘ looseness does work against it, but not enough to invalidate the plethora of humor it packs.

OTHER FILMS BY GENE STUPNITSKY:
My review of No Hard Feelings (2023)

Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon, Keith L. Williams, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Will Forte, and Lil Rel Howery. Directed by: Gene Stupnitsky.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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