This should be a simple review: do you think it’s funny when little kids swear and say sex stuff? Boy, do I have the movie for you. Do you think explicit children tear down the moral fabric of society? Please don’t waste your time boycotting Good Boys; the rest of us are trying to have a mindless laugh. Sorted? Sorted.
Ok, fine, there’s a little more to discuss. Good Boys is the second movie this year to result from a joint effort between Good Universe and Point Grey Pictures, the first being political rom-com Long Shot. Last year, the production companies collaborated on Blockers, which could be seen as a (not so) dry run for Good Boys—test moviegoers with a sexually charged high school movie, and then hit them with the horny sixth graders. It’s a flawless strategy for inoculating us into a culture of depravity and destroying the nuclear family.
Kidding aside, Good Boys is pretty milquetoast once you overcome the shock of profane preteens. It’s a standard coming-of-age tale with utterly familiar story beats—basically Superbad as told by twelve-year-olds. At times, it barely masquerades as a movie: Good Boys was clearly edited around whatever good takes could be scrambled together, like the camera was left rolling on kids doing inappropriate things and a plot was stitched together afterwards. It’s a grab bag of swears and sex jokes.
The movie’s not trying to do anything else, though, so it’s not meant to price at more than face value. It knows that children cavorting around an R-rated movie are hilariously off-putting, and it mines that vein until the gold turns to rust. The dialogue is really funny for about half an hour—seeing Jacob Tremblay, paragon of innocence in Room and Wonder, curse while preparing to masturbate is undeniably amusing—but the movie eventually settles into telling the same joke over and over.
What keeps it from getting old is its understanding of the oxymoronic “kids’ drama”. Adult audiences will remember when sixth-grade problems felt like life or death, and appreciate that the movie’s tone takes its protagonists seriously—small issues earn dramatic needle drops; a kissing party builds tension like a horror film. But as adults, we’ll also recognize how ridiculous those problems seem now, and relive them from a comedic distance. Laughing at Good Boys is 50% laughing at ourselves.
The nostalgia factor is indeed handled well. This is one of the rare coming-of-age movies where little kids are actually playing little kids, lending the sordid affair a degree of authenticity. Many people will be fondly reminded of junior high hijinks, while sexually repressed religious people—speaking, uh, purely hypothetically—can vicariously live the hedonistic childhoods they were denied.
The whole thing is pretty straightforward. There’s nothing structurally or aesthetically daring about Good Boys, and the mileage that its “swearing children” shtick will get really depends on the viewer. If all you’re looking for is a series of loosely connected jokes from the mouths of babes, Good Boys is your fun Saturday night.