Good Boys (2019) Review

SUPER BAD FOR TWEENS


 

The comedic antics of the film Super Bad certainly paved for the raunchy episodic misadventures feature films during the mid-to late 00s era of movies. Naturally, the idea of raunchy teen comedies was reinvented with this particular movie, which followed the exploits of two awkward teens (Seth and Evan) about graduation and losing their virginity before high school at an upcoming party, but it was still a hilarious endeavor that ultimately worked. The framework of the movie did indeed fill the movie with plenty crass and raunchy jokes and gags, but also told a story of a friendship and their ultimate separation of each other when high school ends. The same similar technique of storytelling and humor was then employed in 2019 with the film Booksmart, which followed two awkward teens (Molly and Amy) as they shed their “nerdy” personas before high school ends at a wild party. Again, the same scenarios follow of wacky / zany misadventures of raunchy humor, but finds heart within the tangible relationship that the two teens have. Now, Universal Pictures and director Gene Stupnitsky present the latest comedic offering of this nature with the movie Good Boys. Does this find its humor or does it get lost within its own raunchy nuances?

THE STORY


Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) have been the best of friends since kindergarten; finding the trio inseparable within their formative years of elementary school. Now, the three friends face the horrors of middle school, and all the expected maturity it requires. Thor is concerned with peer pressure and his outward persona; denying what he really wants to do, while Lucas is dealing with his family issues involving his parent’s sudden separation. As for Max, he’s been invited to a special kissing party and is eager to make a move on his latest crush, but is simply unsure about the initial lip contact. Using Max’s father’s prized drone, the three friends spy on Max’s neighbor, Hannah (Molly Gordon), and her pal, Lily (Midori Francis), for inspiration on the art of kissing. When they’re busted by the older girls, who keep the drone, the kids elect to steal Hannah’s purse, finding a bottle of Molly inside. Desperate to get her drugs back, Hannah tries to broker a deal with Max, Lucas, and Thor, who take of an afternoon adventure, trying to earn enough money to buy another drone, getting into all sorts of trouble as well as discovering the straining tethers within their friendships.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


As I’ve mentioned in some of my other review posts, I do appreciate the comedy film genre within all its various comedic storytelling. “Comedy is subjective” as the saying goes, which is a true form to all the variety of comedic feature films. I remember first seeing Super Bad in 2008, while I was on airplane (flying from Auckland to Los Angeles) and found it to be quite hilarious with all of its raunchy humor and inane jokes / gags as well as heartfelt message of two best friends. Plus, it was produced by Judd Apatow…so I knew what I was gonna expect and liked the movie in its entirety. Also, who couldn’t love the character of McLovin! Given the success that Superbad received, I was kind of surprised that Hollywood didn’t try to replicate this particular style of movie (or at least its wacky narrative) …that was until 2019’s Booksmart came out. Much like Superbad before it, I thoroughly enjoyed Booksmart, which was welcomed comedy “coming of age” tale for today’s teenage youths as well as utilizing the female characters as the movie’s two leads. To me, this was one of the biggest surprises’ movies of the year…for me at least.

Of course, this brings me back to talking about Good Boys, the latest comedy film to share a similar narrative to both that of Superbad and Booksmart. To be honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie online as there wasn’t a whole lot of “buzz” about this film on the world wide web. My first introduction to the movie was when the film’s movie trailer was released, which definitely caught my attention. Like many, my initial reaction was that it looked like a “younger” version of Good Boys (younger meaning dealing with middle schoolers instead of high schoolers), but still dealt with raunchy humor and crass jokes. Still, looking beyond that, I was looking forward to seeing Good Boys when it got release, which I did (a few after its initial theatrical release), but I kept on pushing back my review for the movie; choosing to do (and complete) other reviews that I needed to get down first. So, now I have the time to get my review done for Good Boys. What did I think of it? Well, while the movie does follow the same formulaic nature of its two spiritual predecessors, Good Boys does succeed in being a humorous and raunchy endeavor that explores the lives and inner workings of today’s middle schoolers. It’s not the most ingenious comedy film to date, but fines its own rhythm / groove immediately.

Good Boys is directed by Gene Stupnitsky, whose previous works includes such projects like The Office, Bad Teacher and Hello Ladies as director, writer, and producer. With much of his past work involving Television series, Stupnitsky makes the jump into the feature films with Good Boys being his directorial debut in the theatrical motion picture foray. To his credit, he actually does a good job at the helm by making sure the film accessible to comedy fans out there who like these R-rated comedic endeavors. Thus, as one can imagine, the movie’s humor is definitely one to talk and (at least to me) I found it to be quite enjoyable as I found myself laughing throughout the movie. Stupnitsky seems to understand what made Superbad and Booksmart work and tries to emulate that knowledge with Good Boys and makes it fun and entertaining to see what the trio of friends do / encounter throughout the movie. In fact, Stupnitsky does a good job in showcasing plenty of those “moments” that middle schoolers face, including going to a “boy / girl” party, kissing, dealing with peer pressure, learning about “growing up” stuff (i.e. sex), and learning to be yourself to your friends.

The film’s script, which was penned by Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, also tackles a few important issues about middle schoolers or rather growing up in that age range of being a middle schooler (much like some of the stuff I mentioned above). Much like how Super Bad and Booksmart delve into the relationship between two friends, Stupnitsky and Eisenberg make Good Boys follow a similar poignant beat of pointing out the friendship made in middle school and how some times friends drift apart from each other. It’s a natural thing. Heck, it happened a little bit to me with some of my friends. We were close BFFs all in middle school (grew up on the same street) and spent a lot of time together during our middle school years. However, things started to change a little as high school began and we found our own cliques and whatnot. We still remained friends (and still are to this day), but not as super close as we were back then. Thus, I think the thematic message of Good Boys, which might be buried underneath crude jokes and R-rated language, is a good one as many of us out there have experienced a lot of the same things that Max, Lucas, and Thor face in the movie….to a certain degree.

In terms of technical achievements, Good Boys certainly feels “on the level” of a comedy feature film of this day and age. To be fair, there’s nothing really that standout in the feature’s background setting and overall make-up. That being said, it’s hard to fully judge a movie’s presentation within this category. Thus, Good Boys is perfectly fine in its presentation by meeting the industry standards of all the major categories (production designs, costumes, set decorations, editing, etc.) within a comedy endeavor. Also, while the film’s score (composed by Lyle Workman) is decent and definitely works for the movie, the film does feature a nice selection of musical songs within its soundtrack.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem that the Good Boys faces is within its own familiarity of storytelling. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this particular movie follows a similar narrative path to both Super Bad and Booksmart. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Stupnitsky and Eisenberg’s script don’t really color outside the lines from the previously established movie narratives. Thus, the plot and how a lot of things plays are a bit predictable as the movie follows a formulaic trajectory that’s clearly visible from the word go. Additionally, while the movie intent is crystal clear, there’s a large sense of ambiguity of who exactly the film’s target audience is meant for. Is it for young teenagers (those of who the main characters ages are)? Is it for adults (a strong sense of hard R-rating raunchy comedies?). Well, to be honest, it’s a bit of mixture of both, which makes the movie a bit uneven on its target audience and comes off as trying to cater to be many demographic areas.

Because of this notion, most of the jokes and gags that the movie has to offer are quite raunchy of the lower base variety. Of course, I personally liked them and I did find a lot of laughs from the feature’s outlandish / bizarre scenarios that the tweens face, but the movie’s humor can be a bit off putting for some and might find it to be crude. Additionally, much like Super Bad and Booksmart, the first half of the feature seems a bit unglued with a plethora of wacky scenarios that are thinly put together. The ending nicely puts it all together, but not until the third act, which seems quite customary to the endeavors like this. That being said, the script does seem a bit haphazard, more interested in trying its hand in crazy situations to place the trio of middle schoolers.

As to be expected, Good Boys (like Super Bad and Booksmart before it) finds strength within its primary main protagonist characters, with young actors Jacob Tremblay (Room and Wonder), Keith L. Williams (The Last Man on Earth and Teachers), and Brady Noon (Boardwalk Empire) carry the main spotlight of the feature’s weight within their characters of Max, Lucas, and Thor respectfully. While the movie’s script (and the story being told) is the most inventive for the trio of young actors to work, they certainly get the job done within their respective roles. Additionally, while Tremblay is arguably given the most grounded role in Max, which he pulls off with ease thanks to proven talent, as the feature’s main character, Williams and Noon steal the spotlight much of the time, with Williams’s Lucas having a charming naivete and Noon’s Thor having a soft spot underneath his tough exterior. Collectively, these three young actors play off each other effectively, bringing different personalities to Good Boys.

In more of supporting roles are actresses Molly Gordon (Booksmart and I am Sam) and Midori Francis (Ocean’s 8 and The Birch) as Hannah and Lily, the two high school teenagers who pursue Max, Lucas, and Thor throughout most of the movie. Their characters are the most depth / substance, but Gordon and Francis work with what’s given to them and deliver favorable performances in their roles, despite being “cogs” in the Good Boy’s narrative machines. The rest of the cast, including actor Izaac Wang (Teachers and Clifford the Big Red Dog) as “cool kid” Soren, actress Millie Davis (Wonder and Odd Squad) as Max’s crush Brixlee, actor Josh Caras (The Glass Castle and The Highwayman) as Hannah’s boyfriend Benji, actor Sam Richardson (Veep and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) as Officer Sacks, actor Stephan Merchant (Extras and Hello Ladies) as Claude, actor Will Forte (Booksmart and The Last Man on Earth) as Max’s dad, and actor Lil Rel Howery (Uncle Drew and Get Out) and actress Retta (Parks and Recreation and To the Bone) as Lucas’s dad and mom, are delegated to minor supporting characters in the movie. While most aren’t fleshed out (some just have one or two sequences of importance), all are memorable within their respective parts.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Childhood friends Max, Lucas, and Thor get caught up in a “sticky” situation that test the bonds of their friendship and learn more about themselves in the movie Good Boys. Director Gene Stupnitsky latest film takes a humorous look at today’s middle school tweens with plenty of wacky jokes and gags thrown into the mix as well as a few heartfelt moments about that peculiar time period between being a kid and teenager. While the formulaic nature of the story is predictable (bringing not a whole lot to this comedic scenario), the movie finds its rhythm within raunchy R-rated humor, heartfelt message of friendship, and a solid character arc from the three film’s main trio of young actors. Personally, I liked this movie. Yes, it follows a familiar narrative path to both Super Bad and Booksmart (yet that was to be expected), but I enjoyed and laughed throughout the movie’s wacky / goofy scenarios. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is favorable “recommended”, especially if you’re a fan of the two spiritual successors features, but also, I would say that it is a “iffy choice” as some viewers out there might not get it. Again, comedy is subjective. In the end, whether you love it or hate it, Good Boys proves to be a fun endeavor that, while not be a “must see” on everyone’s list, certainly does find it comedic groove within its raunchy jokes and blaring sight gags.

3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy Choice)

 

Released On: August 16th, 2019
Reviewed On: November 10th, 2019

Good Boys  is 89 minutes long and is rated R for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout – all involving teens

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