There is always an inherent risk in placing adult themed comedy into the hands of a pre-pubescent cast. For many people the mix of child actors, bad language and sexual jokes can provide an uncomfortable viewing experience. As their adult comic sensibilities mix with pre-teen or (tween) performances. Good Boys therefore had a difficult path to navigate, in maintaining the innocence and exploration of 11 and 12 year old kids with the adult humour and energy of older teenage films like Superbad and Booksmart. Writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, carefully navigate this minefield with a fresh and energetic comedy that mixes classic coming of age themes with laugh out loud jokes, that poke fun at the adult audience. Maintaining the innocence and urgent desire of pre-teen kids to understand the adult world around them, while embracing the beautiful misunderstandings and innocence of the transition to teenage life. The final years of childhood wrapped into a world of words, themes and ideas that are alien to the young cast. Their minds fluctuating between the desire for teenage experiences and pull of remaining children forever. The adults in their world mysterious and aloof figures that provide comfort and warmth, while equally hiding their own adult insecurities and knowledge.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky (The Office, Bad Teacher) and Produced by Seth Rogan (Bad Neighbours, Sausage Party) Good Boys opens in familiar teen comedy territory. With three pre-teen boys known as ‘The Bean Bag Boys’ (simply because they own beanbags) who are lifelong friends entering the scary world of 6th Grade. Max (Jacob Tremblay) Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) are all desperately searching for the answers and experiences that will transform them from child to cool teenager, while remaining on the periphery of the cool kids groups at school. Each boy focussed on how he can change to fit in with the developing sub cultures present as the transition from child to teen takes place.
Desperate to hang out with his crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) at a kissing party, while also viewing the party as his entrance into the cool kids group at school. Max enlists the help of the bean bag boys in teaching him how kissing works, cutting school and using his dads drone to spy on the older teenagers living on his street. However, as the drone plan dramatically fails and the bean bag boys find themselves in conflict with two older high school girls (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). The day becomes a whirlwind of pre-teen danger, group bonding, cartoon like escapes and humour. As the bean bag boys mission to attend the kissing party at any cost becomes a journey of self discovery for each boy.
What makes Good Boys so fresh is a script that plays homage to the childhood logic, fear and unknown forces that haunt pre-teen life. The boys believing they have all answers while in fact still living in a protected bubble wrapped shield of childhood. Matched with outstanding performances from Tremblay (Room, Book of Henry) Williams (The Bachelors) and Noon (Boardwalk Empire), the young cast maintain the films feeling of innocence versus exploration throughout. Never allowing the young characters to become tools for adult humour, instead reflecting back to the audience the silliness and innocence of the transition from tween to teen. This takes Good Boys beyond the adult comedy present into the realms of classic coming of age films. With the interface and learning between the boys reflecting classic’s such as The Goonies, Adventures in Babysitting and Stand By Me.
Sexual jokes and bad language are nuanced in delivery, with words and understanding replaced by childhood logic. Each boy assured they are right in their imaginative exploration of the adult world, while actually being wrong in so many ways; the adult world distilled into the rampant imagination of 11 year old boys.
Good Boys asks us all to remember the imagination, adventure and fear of pre-teen existence. The desire to grow up dovetailing with a feeling of loss as childhood reaches the borders of teenage life. Yes, its rude, but it’s also full of incredible warmth, laugh out loud humour and tenderness. Delivering a truly sweet comedy that takes you by surprise in its ability to reflect the void between childhood and adolescence and the growth, humour and loss inherent within it.