This summer has seen a greater than ever divide between the haves (Disney) and the have nots (everyone else) at the box office, but Good Boys opened over the weekend with $21 million, making it only the third original movie to top the box office THIS YEAR (yikes on bikes crashing into a guardrail), and providing another hit for Universal. If your ambitions are not as great as Disney’s “own everything, conquer everywhere” mindset, success is possible, and Universal is now the second studio to cross $1 billion at the box office (Disney has already made over $8 billion, for truly depressing comparison). Good Boys is also a rare R-rated hit, taking advantage of the decreased August competition and a marketing campaign that prominently featured producer Seth Rogen. (His brand of heartfelt raunchy comedy has sort of become a franchise unto itself.) Good Boys is a bit of an “oh thank god” moment. Oh thank god original movies can still open at number one, oh thank god comedies aren’t dead, oh thank god R-rated movies that aren’t a franchise still have an audience. Oh thank god, Good Boys is actually good.
The movie revolves around the self-proscribed “Bean Bag Boys”, comprised of Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon), and Lucas (Keith L. Williams, a breakout star). They are middle-schoolers and life-long friends who have reached different stages of development. Max looks the most like a kid, but he is already interested in girls and hopes to kiss Brixlee—THIS NAME—at a “kissing party” the class cool kid, Soren (Izaac Wang), is hosting. Lucas is the most grown of the boys, appearing like an older teen, but he is also the most innocent. And somewhere in between is Thor, looking more grown up than Max, but uninterested in kissing, like Lucas. The boys determine to learn how to kiss before Soren’s party so they won’t embarrass themselves, and this sets them off on an odyssey of hijinks and destruction.
Good Boys is funny, though admittedly, the gag wears thin. The whole movie revolves around the bit—look at these cute little kids swear!—and at first, it has the feeling of early South Park, back when that show was actually transgressive and before its “it’s lame to care about anything” ethos crushed its own spirit. However, even at a brisk ninety minutes, this schtick wears thin, and Good Boys doesn’t really have anything else up its sleeve. Other raunchy teen comedies, like Blockers and Superbad, have multiple characters traversing their own arcs to provide different setups for a variety of jokes. Good Boys is mostly focused on Max’s quest to kiss, though there is a brutally good joke about Lucas’s parents getting divorced. Once the initial shock of seeing these sweet-faced children curse and wreak havoc wears off, Good Boys grows increasingly stale.
What holds it together is how genuinely GOOD these good boys are. They are goofy and guileless and naïve, and over the course of their quest to replace Max’s dad’s drone—this is the most bizarrely overcomplicated comedy plot in recent memory—the boys question each other and their friendship. Though the jokes start to burn out toward the end, the slack is picked up by the Bean Bag Boys realizing they are growing apart, and that’s okay. The emotional core of the movie is strong enough to keep it going when the humor doesn’t. And the kids themselves are fun to watch. It’s fun to see Tremblay play an actual child and not a mini-adult, Brady Noon has some good bits, and Keith L. Williams is f-cking star. If he wasn’t an actual child, I would want to see him in everything. As is, I hope he has a very robust career after a relatively normal childhood. After a summer that has been rough on original movies and comedies, Good Boys is breath of a fresh air, an original comedy that finally gets its due.