Comedy has always evolved by pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in the face of the public. What constitutes as a typical for comedy in film and TV today would have been unheard of 50 years ago except maybe in comedy clubs and private venues. So, perhaps then, it's inevitable that we would arrive at a comedy about sixth graders cussing, drinking from a beer bottle, and talking about sex. And I am sure that there is an intelligent way to write about something like that. Unfortunately, Good Boys is not smartly written. It's funny to a point, but the film seems to be so smitten by the sixth grade boys poking around adult themes that it rarely tries to go beyond being raunchy and crass. Pre-teens saying fuck can be funny to a point, it worked for South Park, but after hearing it a dozen times, it kind of stops being funny. That's how much of the humor is in Good Boys. Mostly funny in concept or in a trailer, where you take the film in snippets, it's a film that doesn't go much deeper than shallow jokes and tired tropes.
I will say that maybe this simply wasn't for me. It is amusing in the same way it's amusing to see kids do shocking things that make us laugh. Maybe this film works better for young parents who are young enough to appreciate the raunchy and raucous comedies from the past three or so decades and now have little sixth graders of their own. Maybe the idea of pre-teens acting this way is hilarious to that specific crowd. I honestly have no idea. But the jokes here feel too easy and too shallow. Part of the problem here is that the film wants to convey the feeling of films we've seen before, but with sixth graders instead. When Seth and Evan go to get beer for a high school party in Superbad and end up getting wasted when they get there, it comes across as natural and relatable because, even if that wasn't us in high school, we at least heard about someone in high school like that. When a sixth grader goes to steal a beer and goes to a '"rager" at his sixth grade friends house, it enters a field of parody. Who knows, maybe this was meant to be a parody of those films. It would certainly make more sense. Here, though, it doesn't feel like a parody. Then again, maybe that's what sixth graders are in fact doing. The film does give the kids slightly more innocent things to focus on, like kissing and not getting grounded, and it would be more funny if the humor was written with more wit, but things essentially boil down to 'What are anal beads?', 'I want to learn how to kiss, so let's look up porn', and 'we're in sixth grade, but the cool kids take a couple sips of beer, so I want to too'.
It doesn't help that we're forced to spend time with kids that leave a lot to be desired in the way of acting. These kids certainly seem like they could be good actors, but the jokes they have to tell feel so forced and they're stuck in such cliched parts, it comes across as, once again, parody. Jacob Tremblay, playing lead Max, has a pretty decent resume, but here he's the typical lead, an everyman who wants the girl and goes to great, exaggerated lengths to get there. Brady Noon is drama kid Thor, who wants to be cool, but tries too hard. And Keith L. Williams is the nice, honest guy to a fault. These are all archetypes we saw in American Pie, shrunk down to pint size levels and who's cares and concerns are simpler forms of getting laid, getting drunk, and figuring out how to grow up. The only problem is that this film wants to apply the same standards of those comedies to this one. On paper, it probably seems like a great idea. In execution, we get characters who are conflicted in the worst ways and actors who try to exude both parts of the film, with neither the child like innocence or teen comedy aspects coming across with quality.
I found the trailer for the movie to be pretty funny. Perhaps, that is how the film is best enjoyed, in parts. As a whole, it's a better concept than a 90 minute film. There's probably a decent size audience for it too. The audience I saw it with seemed to find it hilarious and critics are giving it good ratings. For myself, I just didn't find it that funny. It didn't feel natural enough to be relatable or witty enough to make me genuinely laugh. Did I laugh? Sure, it was amusing. But as a comedy film, it left a lot to be desired.
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