Chuckleheaded vulgarian Seth Rogen produced “Good Boys,” but apparently didn’t have enough input on the script to make this “tween ‘Superbad'” all that funny.
A wildly uneven one-joke farce, sometimes amusing in that “Oh no they DIDN’T,” way, dispiriting in many others, it’s one of those “If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the laughs” late-summer arrivals.
It’s novel if you’ve never been cussed-out by a middle schooler, and how many of us can still say that?
The joke here is that these 12 year-olds may want to get obsessed with girls, sex, drinking and fitting in with the prematurely “mature” among their classmates. But while they have the profanity in their vocabulary, access to the World Wide Porn Web and peer pressure egging them on, these little suburban Chicago dweebs haven’t a clue.
Sex to sex toys, drugs to “childproof caps,” kissing to carnal acts, PBR to puberty, “The Beanbag Boys” are totally out of their depth, but only rarely hilariously so.
“My neighbor’s a total nymphomaniac!”
“She starts fires?”
Max, Lucas and Thor (Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon) have been pals since kindergarten. They live near each other, and plan on being each other’s support system in the wild and wooly world of sixth grade.
The deepest insight in this script is how middle school gives the “best friends forever” tree a good, hard shake. Interests diverge, horizons broaden and you move on to a different circle of close acquaintances. “The Beanbag Boys” haven’t figured that out.
Lucas (Williams) is big for his age, a bit of shrieking, high-voiced mamma’s boy and woke as hell. He’s all about “consent” and the Student Coalition Against Bullying (“S.C.A.B.”), the fellow likely to insist, “Go over there and tell the truth, and God will be on our side!”
Thor (Noon) is all about chorus, his new earring and auditions for the school’s production of “Rock of Ages.” It’s why he dodges taking a group sip from a bottle of beer with the cruel “cool” kids — “They drug test for beer” at these auditions, he insists.
His hippy choral teacher says he has “the voice of an angel.” Our ears and Autotune tells us otherwise, but whatevs.
Max (Tremblay) is making sixth grade the year he makes his feelings known to the fair Brixlee (Millie Davis). Short, inexperienced, a seriously unwelcome and misguided pep talk about masturbation from his dad (Will Forte)? No matter. There’s a “kissing party” coming up at the home of short, cool and popular Asian classmate Soren (Izaac Wang), and Max is hellbent on going.
That’s how the three get all caught up in figuring out how “kissing” works. That’s why they “borrow” Max’s dad’s pricey drone, to spy on teen neighbor Hannah (Molly Gordon of the far-superior “Booksmart”). That’s how it crashes, and Hannah and pal Lily (Midori Francis) take possession of this “spy” vehicle.
That’s why Thor steals’ the teens’ supply of “Molly,” and thus we have our obstacles all set in place foiling Max’s plans to make it to this party.
Yes, they will be chased by the vengeful girls. Yes, they will attempt to hustle stoner frat boys. Yes, they will try and swipe beer. Yes, that will run them afoul of the law. Sound familiar?
“Good Boys” teeters somewhat uneasily on that fine line between “childish” and “juvenile.” Bigger issues wrestled with include the ephemeral nature of love and friendship at that age, parental divorce, the rush by some to grow up too fast while others would rather play Ascension, trade collectible cards (Stephen Merchant shows up as a card collector, “NOT a pedophile!”), ride bikes or as Lucas suggests, “Climb a tree.”
The jokes are of the out-of-their-depth variety, not recognizing sex toys, sex dolls (“my parents ‘CPR doll'”), or words like “anal” and “misogynist.”
“I’m NOT a feminist! I love my mother!” Thor’s worried about becoming “the school piranha” when he means “pariah.”
Some of it lands a laugh, much of it just a shrug.
And without the shock value of age-inappropriate sexual, drug and alcohol content (the boys are anti-drugs, un-attracted to beer), the scattered “For the love of God, DON’T try this at home” bits, the whole enterprise is just beautiful but bland and very young child actors and actresses mugging for the camera, miming the Rogen vocabulary.
And who the f— wants to see that?
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout – all involving tweens
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis
Credits: Directed by Gene Stupnitsky, script byu Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:29