‘Good Boys’ swings with everything it has, misses frequently

Matt Campbell

Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for the 2019 film “Good Boys.” 

“Good Boys” is a film that nurses a trope that, for decades now, has been a staple in modern comedy movies: good kids doing bad things. This reliable and often hyperbolic depiction of adolescence is an easy way to guarantee a successful box office opening, and the crude humor throughout is something not entirely unfamiliar with producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. If those names sound familiar, they should. The Rogen/Goldberg team has been behind some of the most successful comedy films of the past two decades, including the 2007 classic “Superbad,” which has established itself as a high-water mark in adolescent comedy films. Even with this production team at the wheel, “Good Boys” spends its entire runtime swinging with everything it has and missing frequently.

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The film depicts the day leading up to the main characters’, Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams), first “kissing party.” As expected, these three tweens (affectionally called “the bean-bag boys” ­— named because they have bean bags, of course) are eager for some pointers. Desperate, they utilize Max’s dad’s (Will Forte) drone to spy on the relationship of the teenage neighbor. When the drone is destroyed, the bean-bag boys skip school to set out on the journey to the mall to replace the drone after selling a “love doll” owned by Thor’s parents in an awkward and somewhat cringe-inducing scene involving a Craigslist meetup.

This adventure is a ride that leaves the kids facing some seriously adult situations, involving accidentally stolen drugs, a real-life game of Frogger across an interstate and the absolute decimation of a frat house. Eventually, the boys return home after a fight that fits snugly in what seems to be the climax of the movie. When Max takes the fall for the boys’ activities, he is grounded and not allowed to go to the party. Of course, in a very timely manner, Lucas (the rule-abiding “good boy”) sneaks Max out to go to the kissing party. In a whirlwind of expected conclusive activities, Max kisses the girl of his dreams and sets out on an adolescent routine of serial-dating, Thor becomes the star of the school’s rendition of “Rock of Ages” and Lucas joins an anti-bullying group. The bean-bag boys part ways, and after a “where are they now” montage, they have one final “let’s promise to stay friends forever” moment, involving a theater wrap party and a naïve ride on Thor’s parents’ new “swing.”

Good Boys is playing at AMC Fort Collins and Cinemark Fort Collins. 

It is clear that writer/director Gene Stupnitsky (“Hello Ladies: The Movie,” “Bad Teacher”) takes much of the movie’s inspiration and antics from “Superbad,” and for some reason, the Rogen/Goldberg team decided they saw something good about that. Unfortunately, Stupnitsky fails in his inability to capture the authenticity and sincerity that makes “Superbad” a classic film. In almost every way, “Good Boys” is an exact copy of “Superbad.” All the pieces are there: the vulgar aspects of adolescence, the accidental loss of innocence, sex, drugs, parties and a police officer whose apathetic demeanor mirrors that of Bill Hader and Seth Rogen’s characters in “Superbad.” What separates “Good Boys” from its source material, however, is its lack of natural “feeling” throughout. The film tells you what to laugh at and when to laugh at it in a shotgun blast of antics, juvenile humor and situational comedy, resulting in a film that is hyperbolic and unbelievable. Still, there are some authentic laughs scattered throughout, and it seems that when the film is really being itself, that’s when it’s the funniest. The scarce flashes of originality that appear randomly throughout the movie show Stupnitsky’s potential for writing good low-brow comedy, and the characters that he has created seem as real as any other 12-year-old tween.

What “Good Boys” suffers from most is an apparent lack of originality. The film borrows liberally from some of the most well-known teen comedies of the past few decades and dices them up into a forgettable plot and film that relies on excessive crude language and cheap gags to fill 95 minutes of screen time. Even with the faults in the foundation, “Good Boys” does have something to offer. It’s a mindless comedy that hyperbolizes the lives of three 12-year-old boys faced with adolescence, social opposition, growing up and the anxiety of a first kiss. Like its characters, “Good Boys” is a film that struggles to find a clear identity and compensates by sticking to a formula that is both safe and reliable.

Rating: 6/10 

Matt Campbell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter, @mcampnh.