Released: 19th September
Seen: 8th October
There’s this weird phenomenon in media where someone will take a known intellectual property and remake it with baby versions of the characters. This is a huge thing in animation with major shows like Muppet Babies, The Flintstone Kids and Tom And Jerry Kids all showing the infant or pre-school versions of the famous property. Well, now we’re seeing this idea slowly moving from the world of animation to live action. We’ve had the TV series Young Sheldon, before that we had things like Young Indiana Jones and Young Sherlock Holmes. Calling things Young *Marketable Brand Name* is seemingly good business. Hell, there is even (I swear this is real) a version of the John Waters movie Pink Flamingos that was rewritten and performed with children called Kiddie Flamingos. Versions of famous properties with children in the leads is apparently a thing we’re doing now. So, it was only a matter of time before someone said “What if we remade Superbad, but with 12 year olds?” and now that we have it, it’s kind of impressive how well it works.
Good Boys follows three young boys as they prepare for their first big party. Max (Jacob Tremblay) wants to go because he has a crush on another person who will be there, Brixlee (Millie Davis). Thor (Brady Noon) wants to go because he needs to prove to everyone that he’s a big boy who doesn’t drink from a sippy cup, he can sip beer and everything. Lucas (Keith Williams) wants to go because… OK he doesn’t actually care that much, but his friends do and he needs the distraction from his parent’s impending divorce. Of course, getting to the party so that Max can have his first kiss with Brixlee won’t be easy because along the way they’ll have to deal with a pair of girls who they stole drugs from, trying to get a beer past a cop, engage in shenanigans involving trying to get back a drone and, of course, lots and lots of sex toys stolen from the back of Thor’s dad’s closet. You know, your typical Tuesday night.
The plot of the movie follows the standard “Teen sex comedy” plotline almost to the letter. A group of friends trying to get to a party to lose their V-card, chaos ensues and lasts for about 60 minutes. At some point the friends will fight, break apart, realise they need each other, get back together, it’s all here and it’s all very standard for this genre of comedy. What makes this work surprisingly well is that by putting three children in the lead, everything is simultaneously dirtier and more innocent. We’re not listening to a bunch of grown men babble like idiots on how they’re going to trick a girl into sex, these kids don’t even know what sex is. They don’t even know how to kiss, everything vulgar about what’s going on just flies over their heads. Possibly the biggest laughs come from these kids getting into a bunch of sex toys and having no idea what anything is, sure a bunch of dumb kids would think anal beads were nunchaku or make a good necklace. Their innocence in the face of vulgarity means that they can do the vulgar jokes and it almost makes them funnier. These are jokes that in American Pie were hilarious but we’ve seen them so much now that witnessing them with the added comedic cringe of “Oh god, that’s a 12 year old kissing a sex doll” is kind of amazing.
It also helps that these kids are genuinely great comedic performers. Every one of them has perfect timing and delivery that makes every joke work, their reactions are priceless and just work so well. Their reactions to these situations are so perfect, every one of them gets several moments to really prove they have serious comedic chops which is impressive considering they’re children. Normally child acting can be… well, awkward as hell and I try not to judge it unless it’s particularly poorly written but here? These kids are selling what they’ve been given, their performances manage to give the vulgar comedy a touch of innocence that works so well. They get to do everything from delivering great one liners to some physical comedy to possibly the most over the top and hilarious fight scene ever that ends with all of them crying to an almost cartoonish level. The supporting cast also does a great job but the main three actors are absolutely brilliant.
The one pretty big problem that I do have with this film isn’t even about the appropriateness of getting kids to do this kind of thing, if you actually remember what it’s like to be this age you wouldn’t be shocked one little bit by hearing this language. Hell, I’m pretty confident most of the swear words I’ve ever known were picked up in third grade just listening to other kids, so hearing a bunch of prepubescent’s yelling “Fuck” and “Blowjob” doesn’t bother me but what does is how rigidly this film sticks to the formula set by Superbad and other films like it. It doesn’t deviate one bit, the only thing that changes is the tone but the actual story? You can guess where it’s going and how it’s going to get there within 15 minutes, there’s no real surprise here when this was the best way they could’ve subverted the entire genre. Using kids to maybe explore the flaws of the genre or it’s more problematic elements could’ve been interesting and this cast is talented enough that they could have easily done it but instead we just trudge through the same plot but with a slight twist on the jokes, they’re still great jokes and they still work but when I can sit there going “Oh, here’s where they get confronted by cops, here’s where they make a drug deal, here’s where they try to put everything right and make it worse” as though I’m going through a checklist, that’s just lazy.
In general though, Good Boys is a lot of fun with a lot of charm to it. It’s vulgar and crass but it also knows just how to keep things from being so vulgar you turn away. While I wish they could’ve done something new with the plot, maybe leaned into the more ‘woke’ elements of the characters (considering how many times the kids pointedly bring up the idea of how essential consent is, something this genre never brings up, it’s kind of nice to see that element here) or just not done the same plot everyone else did, it’s still a good time. It’s not going to be a classic or a new standard bearer, but it’s a genuinely fun film with a lot of good going for it.