Released in time for the school holidays, but with a ‘MA’ rating, director Gene Stupnitsky’s Good Boys is a coming of age comedy that does not really seem to know who its target audience should be.
With a flimsy plot which revolves around the actions of three naive fifth grade boys trying to prepare themselves for their attendance at a sixth grade ‘kissing party’. The film sets up an awkward dichotomy between depicting its star trio as morally correct youngsters who have learned, and sincerely try to adhere to, the expected rules of an ideal, law abiding society whilst having them, at the same time, all too readily compromise their established beliefs and usual behaviours in order to fit into the way society actually functions.
The heroic trio know to say no to drugs, for example, and to seek consent before attempting any form of affectionate intimacy – but the film then sets up their political correctness to appear to be hypocritical, making the main source of humour revolve around them having their moral compass break down completely.
They buy ecstasy from a local drug dealer, then ‘shoot’ their way out of the ensuing sticky situation; they steal alcohol, stalk female neighbours, cuss excessively, access pornography – in the name of ‘research’, of course – and appropriate the seemingly endless variety of their parents’ elaborate sex toys as weapons, gifts and items for online sales.
The final result is that the film ends up as an uncomfortable mix of scatological and sexual sight gags that make you squirm rather than guffaw, blended with a number of lachrymose, warm and fuzzy emotive set pieces that only come across as mawkish and insincere, set, as they are, amidst the tackiness of the overly sexualised adult world that the boys are attempting to enter.
The three young main performers – Jacob Tremblay as Max who is hellbent on kissing his secret crush, Brixlee; Brady Noon as Thor, who is fighting against peer pressure in order to pursue his dreams of singing in the school production of Rock Of Ages; and Keith L. Williams as Lucas, who is wrestling with the break-up of his parents marriage and the impending recalibration of his whole existence – are all competent and generally believable in their roles.
It is perhaps indicative of the whole questionable subtext of this film, however, that Lucas who happens to be the only overweight one of the trio, with the most overtly dysfunctional family, should be played by Williams, an Afro-American actor.
The rest of the cast play largely one-dimensional comedically functional roles, whilst the one celebrity guest cameo here, an uncomfortably cringeworthy appearance by Stephen Merchant, has the British cult comic trying to make the most of a scene involving him surviving an interrogation to discover whether or not he is a paedophile, and which ends up with him buying an inflatable sex doll from the boys instead of purchasing a collectable trading card.
Overall, this is a film that relies on slapstick and junior high school humour even though it has locked itself out of the audience most responsive to this infantile approach by earning itself an ‘MA’ rating for its high level sexual references. Whilst some older teens may giggle occasionally at the jokes on screen, most discerning adults will simply find Good Boys too tacky and predictable to be enjoyable.
Good Boys is screening at cinemas around town right now.