I might compare this one to Superbad more than once in this review, but just not in the way the filmmakers were hoping.
Following three best buds, Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon), as they make the transition from the 5th grade to the 6th (yeah, this one takes place in middle school btw), Good Boys is all about what it means to be a tweenager while simultaneously trying to figure out how to be anything but. As our boys move onto the next level of their schooling and come face-to-face with the teenagers and young adults they think they should be idolizing and imitating, Max, Lucas and Thor set out on a quest that forces them to find out who they truly are both as separate individuals and as friends, all the while trying to find a way to make it to a “kissing party” to solidify their adolescences before it even truly begins. But with a handful of external problems looking to stop them from achieving their “spin the bottle” goals, and the simple fact that their lives as pre-teens and friends may be in conflict with one another, Max, Lucas, and Thor must come to terms with the fact that growing up isn’t as easy as it looks, especially when the growing up part has only just begun.
First things first: this isn’t the younger, newer generation’s version of Superbad regardless of how hard it tries, nor is it the thoughtful coming of age story we might be led to believe, but after walking out of the theater, Good Boys seems to have enough elements in common with similar films to call this one a middling success.
Bolstered by some up and coming actors, specifically the already fantastic Jacob Tremblay, and the fun, innocent yet authentic Keith L. Williams (Brady Noon I didn’t really care for as an actor or character), Good Boys feels a bit too safe for its own good even though it tries to pretend it’s breaking the “good boys” mold at every turn. By having kids that are barely teenagers talk about topics ranging from drug use, to the line between what’s right and what’s wrong in life, to the all powerful “kissing parties” that are a staple of pre-teen lives, the filmmakers seem to have the right ingredients for something truly unique, but settle for shock value that doesn’t add much to what we’re watching (which Superbad somehow found a way to do while still telling a heartfelt story), and really only elicits a few chuckles here and there along the way. Believe me, being a curse word spewing, future obsessed, awkward kid when I was their age seemed like it was a hilarious ride and would make for a great movie, but it all feels a little too much like a bunch of adults attempting to update a tried and true Hollywood formula specifically tailored to this new generation, but didn’t to the proper research in knowing what this generation is actually all about outside of flying drowns and Google Maps apparently.
But maybe, outside of the raunchy “I’m cool” exterior that the film and our protagonists constantly exude, the entire purpose of this film is to show that kids shouldn’t be acting above their age, that best friends part ways when real life rears its confusing and awkward head, and that we all need to slow down growing up before it’s too late and we’re just that – grown up – but outside of the third act and a few scenes sprinkled here and there that strengthen these ideas (specifically Lucas’ storyline with his parents), I felt like the potential for such powerful storytelling was somewhat watered down in favor of the next slightly derivative scenario that puts our boys in a ridiculous situation where they can curse and make obliviously naïve comments about said ridiculous situation. Which is upsetting because it all could work, in fact it has worked for other movies in the past, but in all honesty, and while this isn’t a bad movie by any means, it feels like this one overshot itself just a bit too far to land safely in the company of the films it so obviously wants to be a part of, and for that, I think Good Boys loses a lot of what it so badly wants to be.
Nowhere close to being as good as the filmmakers are seemingly trying to make it out to be, Good Boys is a funny-ish movie that comes across as being more derivative and unoriginal than expected, but still has a big heart that shines through when needed. Sure, there’s a bit of a fun dynamic between the three leads, and I can admit that the film has a few high points along the way, but Good Boys feels a bit undercooked in comparison to other movies cut from a similar cloth. Superbad for a new and younger generation this is not, so keep your expectations in check.