There are two ways to make an R-rated comedy starring middle school boys. One version is an R-rated film where the boys are essentially interchangeable with adults. The other is a Goonies-style movie but rated R. Good Boys falls into the latter category, and because of this, it is absolutely charming, laugh out loud hilarious at times with a lot of heart behind it.
Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) are the beanbag boys. Best friends since childhood, they do everything together. So when Max gets invited to a kissing party at the cool kid’s house, he wants his crew to go with him. Except, as he realizes, he doesn’t know how to kiss.
The boys try to educate themselves by looking up porn and practicing on their parent’s CPR dummy. Those don’t go so well. They turn to Max’s dad’s drone to spy on the next door neighbors in order to see how they kiss. This takes a turn, though, and results in not only a destroyed drone, which Max must replace before his dad gets home so that he can still attend the party, but also a full-fledged war with the two college-aged women, whose Molly the boys accidentally got a hold of. Now the beanbag boys have to work to replace the drone, make a truce with the neighbors, and still be able to get to the kissing party.
Good Boys seizes on its opportunity to lean into the more raunchy comedy that its premise creates, including cringe-worthy slapstick and the joke of having kids say bad words and discover adult things. But it never forgets that its main characters are in middle school. It doesn’t try to make them more mature or more knowledgeable than an actual 12-year-old would be.
The kids curse and attempt to make provocative jokes without every really understanding what any of those things mean because they’re just preteens. They’re curious about kissing girls and going to parties, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped being kids who cry when they get hurt, need their mother’s permission to go to other people’s houses and think beer tastes terrible. And by recognizing this, the film is able to build in a lot more emotion and meaning into the boy’s journeys, elevating it from just being another R-rated comedy, but an actual coming-of-age story where character dominates over spectacle.
The film also impressively works in positive messages regarding relationships and consent, which seems like an obvious and necessary part of creating an adequate coming-of-age comedy, but because it is so often not depicted, really feels laudable here. The beanbag boys don’t quite know how to kiss a girl, but they understand that, more than anything, the girl needs to actually want to kiss you in the first place and consent before moving forward. Lucas is the first of the boys to point this out, and while the story takes a beat for him to say this, it doesn’t make light of it or have the other boys call him lame and move on. Instead, it is something that strings along throughout the film and is an admirable addition to a story about young boys learning about kissing and relationships.
Most charming of all, though, is the boy’s genuine expressions of care for one another and their sensitivity toward holding onto their bond as the beanbag boys. The performances by Tremblay, Williams, and Noon as a dynamic trio are wonderful enough to really drive the emotional weight of the story and heighten its themes regarding friendship and what happens to childhood friendships as you get older.
In terms of its potential quotability, Good Boys could easily become a film that provides numerous pop culture references in the years to come like other school comedies before it. Of course, many of the jokes are vulgar and some are awkward enough to ride the line between hilarity and cringe. It’s an R-rated comedy. But as a story about friendships and growing up in addition to this, it treats its premise with the right amount of fun and heart.