If you’ve seen any of the hilarious trailers for Good Boys, then you’ve practically seen Good Boys. There are, of course, pros and cons to marketing a comedy in this way. For one, packing the trailer with the movie’s best jokes is a great way to get people to the theater (which actually seems to have worked, considering Good Boys snatched up the number one spot at the box office with a $21 million weekend gross its opening weekend). But, on the other hand, it doesn’t leave a whole lot for the audience to experience for the first time (think about it — jokes are never as funny the second, third, or twelfth time around). This makes for an unfortunate catch-22. Good Boys is a rather competent, quite funny and extremely endearing studio comedy that just doesn’t feel fresh, if only for its persistent marketing and quality trailers.
Good Boys follows in the footsteps of movies like Superbad and Booksmart — raunchy, day-in-the-life comedies where a pair of “loser” friends endure a series of misadventures in pursuit of a singular goal: attending a raucous party to prove that they are, in fact, cool. Good Boys differs from its predecessors in two significant ways: it follows a trio of friends, rather than a pair, and the friends are twelve years old, instead of seventeen. It may seem like a gamble to rest the fate of an R-rated studio comedy in the hands of three kids who wouldn’t even be allowed to watch it, but with a cast like this, it’s kind of a no-brainer. The film’s ostensible lead is Jacob Tremblay, who garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of Jack, a 5-year-old born in captivity in the indie drama Room. In Good Boys Tremblay plays Max, a hopelessly romantic sixth-grader who goes to great lengths to connect with his crush, the popular Brixlee. Tremblay, though extremely funny, shines the most in moments of emotional vulnerability. The young star channels the true acting prowess he displayed in Room to swoon, scream and sometimes weep his way through the film. But Good Boys is not overly sentimental, and it knows that Jacob Tremblay crying on command can be used (and overused) to the point of hilarious absurdity. Supporting Tremblay are relative newcomer Brady Noon as Thor (a singing enthusiast who is frequently teased) and Last Man on Earth star Keith L. Williams as Lucas (a happy-go-lucky kid who is shocked to learn that his parents are getting a divorce). Thor and Lucas spend a good portion of the film assisting Max in his efforts to get to the party, but thankfully the film dignifies all three leads with distinct and developed storylines, despite a runtime of only 89 minutes.
A movie like Good Boys is hard to mess up — with three competent young actors cursing their way through sexually explicit meta-comedy, it’s bound to be an enjoyable ride. That said, a movie like Good Boys is also hard to master — raunchy dialogue from the mouths of three tweens can only get you so far. Luckily, Good Boys is helmed by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, two writers best known for their work on The Office. Most notably, Stupnitsky and Eisenberg penned the hilarious and heartbreaking season four episode, “Dinner Party,” which has been praised as one of the show’s best. Good Boys also mixes the hilarious with the heartbreaking, as Stupnitsky and Eisenberg inject real drama and emotion throughout the film, culminating in a third act montage that stands out as the single best moment in the film. The experience of watching Good Boys may be unfairly damaged by incessant marketing, but the film itself is a smart and satisfying comedy that knows how (and when) to utilize its own strengths. ★★★½