By HEATHER TURK
Front Row Features Film Critic
Nearly 12 years to the day since “Superbad” was released in theaters, executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (“Pineapple Express”) have a new coming-of-age comedy hitting cineplexes—Universal Pictures’ “Good Boys.” While the premise is similar, the hilarious R-rated film packs a bit more of an emotional punch than its predecessor due to the fact its leads are tweens in the sixth grade instead of teenagers heading off to college.
Max (Jacob Tremblay, “Room”), Lucas (Keith L. Williams, “The Last Man on Earth”) and Thor (Brady Noon, “Boardwalk Empire”) are best friends on different paths in life—even though they haven’t really noticed it yet. Max is maturing a bit faster than his fellow Bean Bag Boys (the nickname the trio gave themselves since they love to play with bean bags) and finds himself invited to hang out with the cool kids after bravely taking a sip of beer in the forest one day. Although the coolest student in the sixth grade, Soren (Izaac Wang, “Teachers”), doesn’t really want plays-by-the-rules Lucas and budding musical theater star Thor at his upcoming kissing party, Max convinces Soren to let them come since he desperately wants to kiss his not-so-secret crush, Brixlee (Millie Davis, “Orphan Black”), and doesn’t do anything without his best buds by his side. Of course, none of the three “good boys” really know how to kiss a girl, which sets off a chain of events involving a drone, a sex doll and some drugs that forever changes their once-innocent friendship.
Like “Superbad,” watching the hilarious situations the boys get themselves into is highly entertaining—especially the scene where they decide to sell something of value that they own to replace the drone they destroyed that belonged to Max’s father (Will Forte, “The Last Man on Earth”). Tremblay, Williams and Noon are all a joy to watch onscreen, and even though their characters may talk like Kyle, Stan and Cartman from “South Park,” there’s never any doubt in viewers’ minds that they’re really good kids at heart. While it’s hard to pick a scene stealer out of the three young actors since they all do such a great job, Williams’ performance may shine a tad bit brighter than Tremblay’s and Noon’s—although it’s refreshing to see Tremblay play the ladies’ man and Noon play the theater geek when it seems like the two roles could have so easily been switched.
As funny as the script by Lee Eisenberg and director Gene Stupnitsky (who both co-wrote “Bad Teacher”) is, however, “Good Boys” ultimately ends up being somewhat sad, as audiences soon realize that they’re watching the three childhood friends’ last real adventure together. During a scene with the two teenage girls they were using the drone to spy on (in hopes of seeing one of the girls kiss her boyfriend so they could pick up some tips), the trio is shocked to learn that the high school besties (played by “Booksmart’s” Molly Gordon and “Ocean’s Eight’s” Midori Francis) haven’t been friends their whole lives. The girls comment on how most friendships when you’re a kid are based on how close you live by one another and if your parents are friends with each other instead of being based on shared interests, foreshadowing the boys’ future.
While “Superbad” has a similar ending with the main characters growing up and growing apart, it’s much easier for audiences to take since the characters are about to graduate high school anyway. Seeing Max, Lucas and Thor eventually come to the realization that it’s okay not doing everything together all the time is a bit more emotional since all three are still in the same school together and still live right by one another. Growing apart is obviously a natural part of growing up for most childhood friends, but the boys seem so young that it’s sad watching them take a major step toward adulthood and leave a part of their childhood behind.
Nevertheless, for the majority of “Good Boys’” 89-minute run, audiences will be laughing nonstop. While the movie may just seem like “Superbad Jr.,” the naughty coming-of-age comedy is original enough to not come across as a complete rehash. Plus, most of its jokes weren’t given away in the trailers, which is always nice, as several alternate takes were shot to keep the laughs fresh. Although that means some of the best jokes from the trailers didn’t make the final cut, hopefully audiences can relive them on the future Blu-ray release since sadly there’s no reel of alternate jokes that plays during the film’s closing credits.
All in all, “Good Boys” is a good time.