Peter Howell: These Good Boys are dumb and crude, but also sweet

Peter Howell: These Good Boys are dumb and crude, but also sweet

Good Boys

Starring Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Lil Rel Howery, Will Forte, Millie Davis and Izaac Wang. Written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. Directed by Stupnitsky. Opens Friday at theatres everywhere. 90 minutes. 14A

The ads for the dumb summer fun that is Good Boys remind us that it’s from “the guys who brought you Superbad, Neighbors and Sausage Party.”

And indeed it is — producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are the common link — but this guilt-by-association branding neglects to point out one important thing.

Good Boys is a lot sweeter than those other movies. It similarly trades in lewd and crude humour, to be sure, but it does so by way of a funny story of a trio of Grade Sixers attempting to negotiate the hairpin turn from boyhood to manhood.

These three knuckleheads aren’t trying to get girls drunk so they can sexually assault them, as the older-skewed Superbad problematically implied. They’re just looking for their first kiss, without a clue how to go about getting it. Mayhem will guide them on their voyage of discovery.

Don’t let those adorable faces fool you. Max (Canada’s Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) swear like longshoremen, although they probably don’t know what a longshoreman is. They just do it because they think it’s cool, although the resolutely undeceitful Lucas always feels guilty about doing anything remotely naughty.

They also don’t know what a nymphomaniac is (“Someone who has sex on land and sea,” one says) and when they sneak a peek at online porn they’re baffled by the erotic gymnastics. Other kids in their ’hood are almost as clueless, taunting each other to take “sips” of beer rather than shotgunning a purloined bottle.

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What Max, Lucas and Thor do know is they want to kiss a girl, although maybe Max is the most interested in that particular life passage. He’s sweet on a girl named Brixlee (Millie Davis) whom he’s too shy to approach. His big chance beckons via an impending “kissing party” at the home of his middle school’s most popular kid (Izaac Wang).

How to prepare? The boys “borrow” a drone owned by Max’s dad (Will Forte) to spy on two older neighbour girls (Midori Francis and Molly Gordon), who they just know must know how to kiss, you know?

What they don’t reckon on is that the girls are no angels, either, and nothing good ever comes from snooping. The predictable hijinks that follow, however, are based more on character and story development than simply layering one shock upon another.

First-time director Gene Stupnitsky and his co-writer Lee Eisenberg (Bad Teacher, Year One) aren’t out to transgress for the sake of transgressing, which is a nice change of pace for this type of movie.

They’ve made a comedy where the hormonal heroes don’t intend to steal a kiss, but rather to ask for one. That’s the real shocker about Good Boys, and it comes as sweet relief in a summer of mostly bad movies.

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Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm

TORONTO STAR

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