“Good Boys” Movie Review


     As a screenwriter, it was already apparent Gene Stupnitsky seemed to be enamored by having those in society we deem as being typically innocent break the stereotype and utilize a vernacular best left in the gutter.  His screenplay for 2011’s “Bad Teacher” had me wondering what exactly was supposed to be so funny about a high school educator’s recurrent use of the F-word.  Sure, seeing Cameron Diaz playing against type as a naughty school teacher had some comedic merit, but over the course of two hours, the joke loses its ability to make us laugh.  Now making his feature directorial debut with “Good Boys”, Stupnitsky essentially does the same thing, employing the innocent within a story that seeks to push the raunchy limits of an R-rating, but this time with 6th graders.  Adult teachers are one thing, but has he gone too far with this one?

     This isn’t to say we should be naive in believing kids at this age don’t cuss or think about things like sex and drugs. Of course they do.  But 90 minutes of F-bombs coming out of the mouths of these kids is almost certain to make any reasonable adult reach for a bar of soap.  But the foul language these kids seem to thrive on isn’t exactly what pushes the story to the once taboo boundaries reserved for films about high school kids.  Essentially what Stupnitsky has done is take the story told in “American Pie” and retrofitted it for kids who are at an age where they can’t open a child proofed medicine bottle.  If the guys in “American Pie” made a pact they would lose their virginity on Prom night, then what kind of conquest would a trio of 11 year olds embark on?

     Early on, we meet Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon), three inseparable best buddies who refer to themselves as the Bean Bag Boys and long to simply fit in with the popular kids at school.  We see very little of the parents during the film, which isn’t surprising given what these three get into.  Max’s dad (Will Forte) is off on a business trip, telling his son before he leaves not to touch or play with his drone that is used for his work.  And, of course, you know the old saying “Because you told me to not to” means the very first thing Max does, along with Thor and Lucas, is take the thing for a neighborhood spin.

     When a popular peer in school calls Max over in the lunch room and invites him, and reluctantly his two partners in crime, to a party where there will be mandatory kissing, they immediately realize they are short in the experience department and must learn how quickly.  As we know, they are under the impression the popular kids they are trying to emulate have been in the kissing business for years.  It is known one of their neighbors, Hannah (Molly Gordon), has a boyfriend, so they figure a little drone spying over the backyard swimming pool is in order.  But Hannah and her girlfriend, Lily (Midori Francis), capture the drone when it gets too close, becoming the catalyst that drives the plot for the rest of the story as the two teens hunt the Bean Bag Boys who steal Hannah’s bag containing party drugs they obtained earlier.

     Eventually, the language the kids are using has a numbing effect, as you begin to wonder where their parents are and why they would allow these kids to run amok without any supervision.  We only see glimpses of their family life, though a subplot includes Lucas’ parents tiptoeing around telling him they are getting a divorce.  If there are laughs to be had, it is the many times these kids raid their parent’s bedrooms and find stashes of sex toys they innocently believe are weapons.  A recurring joke involving anal beads they believe to be nunchucks garners a few laughs, as does a very pretty CPR practice doll they also find in the closet.  Perhaps the filmmakers conjured this entire story up as a sort of cautionary tale for parents who would be better served paying more attention to what their kids are doing.

     The third act, after the constant barrage of dirty jokes, potty mouthed little kids, and notably raunchy site gags, bombards us with the kind of sentimental ending you would likely expect.  The entire thing is played as if it was a mere learning experience for all involved, as these kids, whose friend’s parents allow them to have a private spin the bottle party in the basement,  seem to come out all the wiser at their young age, even though Max (an 11 year old) has to sneak out of his home due to being grounded just to attend the party.  I’m sure in his mind it was worth it, particularly since the consequences these kids suffer are minimal.  

     If anything, you have to applaud the inclusion of a scene in which the kids go into a frat house to buy drugs, giving them a glimpse of what will result if they remain on the path they are currently traveling.  And because all of this is played for laughs, it’s easy to forget it is actually the reality.  What was once reserved for high school aged characters has now been deemed appropriate for kids who just got out of elementary school.  Of course, in the screening I was in, there were plenty of young children sitting next to their giddy parents in a sort of clueless R-rated bliss.  So how surprised can we be?  GRADE: C