Review: Sweetness outweighs raunch in kind-hearted 'Good Boys'

Comedy celebrates the sweetness and innocence of pre-adolescence

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Non-stop cursing has never sounded so sweet and innocent.  

In "Good Boys" three 12-year-olds swear like sailors and get tangled up in a world of drug deals, sex toys and underage drinking.

At 14, it's a completely different movie. But at age 12, the kids are still naive enough to not know any better, and "Good Boys" winds up a warm-hearted coming-of-age tale that knows how to wring laughs out of R-rated material without being raunchy or filthy. (Well, not too raunchy or filthy, at least.) 

Keith L. Williams, Jacob Tremblay and Brady Noon in "Good Boys."

That's quite the accomplishment, given the leather whips and other bedroom toys these 6th graders unknowingly use as accessories in their wide-eyed adventure. But it's boys being boys, and they're at that tender age when they talk like they know it all but don't know what any of it means, and are still foiled by the intricacies of childproof caps.  

Max ("Room's" Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are three friends who call themselves "The Beanbag Boys," and they're an inseparable gang the way only three kids that grew up together can be. But as they enter the treacherous waters of middle school, fears they could split apart and fracture onto separate adolescent paths are beginning to creep into their perfect little bubble.   

For now, they're on a mission, and it involves a kissing party. Max has the hots for his classmate, Brixlee (Millie Davis), and is working up the courage to plant one on her at an upcoming basement get-together. He first has to navigate a minefield of 2019 triggers, and the screenplay by Lee Eisenberg and director Gene Stupnitsky (they wrote "Bad Teacher" together) wisely folds in the kids' fears about consent and the proper treatment of women.

An investigation into how to properly kiss tangles them up in a plot with a pair of teenage neighbor girls (played by Molly Gordon and Midori Francis) and some capsules of Molly. It becomes the backbone of a story that places the boys into as many compromising predicaments as possible, including a Frogger-like dash across a busy highway and a convenience store run-in with a lawman (played by "Detroiters'" Sam Richardson). 

It's all in good fun and is treated like "Superbad" with an 8:45 p.m. curfew. There's a purity to the script that rings authentic to incoming 6th graders, before their minds are corrupted and they become lawless, horndog 8th graders. Change is coming, and "Good Boys" doesn't shelter its characters, but captures that time just before inner forces (i.e. hormones and puberty) begin to cloud everything that was once pristine. They know they're supposed to talk about and be interested sex, but are still more interested in friendship and trading cards. 

"Good Boys" is held together by its three lead performances, especially Tremblay, who helps guide the script over its sometimes wonky plotting. Every time the boys find themselves neck deep in wacky circumstances, from having to battle their way out of a frat house with paintballs to selling a sex doll to a stranger, the boys' camaraderie carries them through. The situations aren't always relatable, but the feeling is universal.

'Good Boys'


Rated R: for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout - all involving tweens

Running time: 100 minutes