The best comedies are generally those with some heart. Think Eighth Grade, Booksmart, Superbad (this is a particularly relevant comparison to Good Boys; Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the screenplay for Superbad, and produced Good Boys). They have plenty of laughs, yes, but they make you feel something too. Whether you relate to characters’ friendships or life experiences, something exists to balance out the humor.
And finding that balance is key. Jokes can only take a movie so far. And Good Boys certainly has plenty of laughs. It’s arguably the funniest movie of the year. But it also has a heart. There’s something endearing, and admittedly nostalgic, about the main kids here.
Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are best friends trying to navigate the treacherous world of sixth grade. When they get invited to the “cool kids” party – a kissing party, no less – panic sets in. They have no experience and need to take a crash course before the party.
They settle on the idea of using Max’s dad’s (completely off-limits) drone to spy on next door neighbor Hannah (Molly Gordon) and her boyfriend. Things predictably go wrong as Hannah takes the drone and holds it hostage from the boys. And from there hijinks and hilarity ensue as the trio works to get the drone back before Max’s dad (Will Forte in a brief but brilliant turn) comes home.
Said hijinks and the jokes are largely sexual in nature, mostly focusing on the boys’ paper-thin grasp of the subject. While it’s not often truly offensive and rarely ventures into gross-out territory (though to be fair, when it goes there, it really goes for it), it does grow tiresome at times. Even when the jokes remain funny independently, there’s a definite feeling of sameness that sometimes sticks around a little too strong.
But those down stretches don’t last long, and that’s all thanks to the three leads. The script does them a lot of favors, to be sure, but it’s still on them to perform. And they bring it. They feel like real kids, like real friends. Plus, who can’t relate to making these same kinds of jokes and comments at their age and getting the context completely wrong?
There’s a surprising depth to their friendship, too, and they handle these heavier moments just as well as the comedy. Just as jokes can only carry a movie to a certain extent, a movie with young leads can usually only be as good as they are. And Good Boys has three great leads, who all play their parts perfectly. From an acting standpoint, there’s not a weak link in the bunch. There isn’t even a single scene that sticks out as poor or sub-standard acting. That’s one of the more welcome surprises the movie offers up.
Something that is not a surprise, unfortunately, is how predictable the plot is. While the exact way things play out isn’t predictable, the overall structure is a familiar one. Anyone who knows the genre can see how the various story beats will play out. This would have been a prime opportunity to try something different and take some risks.
Seeing these good boys try to break bad is one of the more fun movie-going experiences of the year. It’s a shame not more was done to capitalize on the strong, young talent. While still very good, an over-reliance on plot tropes and not enough variety in the jokes are just enough to keep Good Boys from being great.