GOOD BOYS movie poster | ©2019 Universal Pictures

GOOD BOYS movie poster | ©2019 Universal Pictures

Rating: R
Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Josh Caras, Will Forte, Mariessa Portelance, Lil Rel Howery, Retta\
Lee Eisenberg & Gene Stupnitsky
Gene Stupnitsky
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: August 16, 2019

GOOD BOYS is an odd coming-of-age comedy. The oddness springs not from originality, although it has some, but rather because it’s not clear exactly who the target audience is. The protagonists are three best friends and newly-minted sixth-graders, Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon). When Max is invited to a party, he makes sure that Lucas and Thor can come, too. Max knows his crush Brixley (Millie Davis) will be in attendance, and it’s been announced there will be Spin the Bottle, so he feels an urgent need to learn how to kiss. An attempt at spying on a kiss turns into an epic quest to recover Max’s dad’s drone.

Despite the knowledge that we’ve seen many versions of this before, it’s hard not to like GOOD BOYS, both the movie and the characters. When the one thing that all of our heroes know about kissing is that consent must be obtained beforehand or it can’t happen, you’re willing to give them and their story a lot of leeway. It’s also pleasing that older teens Hannah (Molly Gordon) and Lily (Midori Francis), teens who for awhile are at odds with the boys, are depicted as having dignity and humanity.

GOOD BOYS actually has a lot of sweetness to it, even if we’re in an idealized upper-middle-class suburbia where divorce may occur, but nobody’s worried about guns in schools or whether it’s safe for children to be out unsupervised after dark. This world could easily flow into that of STRANGER THINGS, with the same overall sense of innocence, even though GOOD BOYS is set in the present.

The audience for GOOD BOYS, however, is clearly not grade-school kids. While there is no actual sex and no violence that causes permanent damage, much of the humor revolves around sex toys (which the boys don’t understand), drugs (although the boys do not partake), beer (there are sips, but no drunkenness), and strong language (which a lot of boys and girls actually use, but the MPAA likes to believe they don’t). People old enough to get into this movie by themselves may or may not get a sense of nostalgia. Actual grown-ups should be amused, albeit probably worried that any kids who do see this may try something like the crossing the freeway stunt.

The screenplay by Lee Eisenberg & director Gene Stupnitsky handles its schematics well. The three main characters are all distinct, with only Max feeling the onset of hormones. Lucas is preoccupied with his home life and has a compulsive need to tell the truth, while Thor loves to sing, but is susceptible to peer pressure. Their personalities are about to pull them all in different directions, and GOOD BOYS handles this with a pleasing blend of compassion and humor. Actual sixth-graders might really like the movie. Maybe their parents will take them and have long talks afterwards.

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