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Good Boys is Superbad with 12-year-olds

GOOD BOYS
directed by Gene Stupnitsky

Producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's new crass comedy comes with a catch.

The producers of Good Boys are Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, notorious purveyors of deeply crass comedies (see Superbad, Sausage Party et al). Their new film comes with a catch: its leading characters are 12-year-olds. Rogen and Goldberg’s trademark vulgarity is mercifully absent here, although their tween leads earn the film an R13 offensive-language rating. The plot feels achingly familiar: somewhere in town, there’s a cool party to which loveable nerds aren’t invited – that mythic quest of many a coming-of-age comedy.

At this stage of life, Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L Williams) still dwell in that strange borderland between oblivious naivety and the onset of anxious self-awareness. The best bits of Good Boys are when the trio’s youthful innocence rubs up against the harsher world of adults.

There’s a recurring gag that sees the kids attempt a beer-drinking record, lest they be branded with the nickname “Sippy Cup”. And they never discover that the jiggly mannequin they’ve been using for kissing practice is not, in fact, a CPR doll. There are even a few examples of wit – a capacity so rare in American comedies: the next-door neighbour, Max notes, is a “total nymphomaniac”. To which Lucas replies, “You mean she starts fires?”

Amid the shenanigans is a sense of the fragility of childhood, and lingering in the background is a subplot about divorce. Good Boys signs off with a rather sweet coda about the impermanence of friendships. Innocence has to be lost, somehow. Better to let it go in the company of pals.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★

Video: Universal Pictures NZ

This article was first published in the September 28, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.