Review: Middle School Mayhem—and Hormones—in an Entertaining Good Boys

Charm will always win out over crass, so imagine combining these two noble traits into one genuinely heartfelt, R-rated comedy about three sixth graders who set out on an epic quest to make it to a kissing party thrown by the most popular kid in their grade. Directed by first-time feature helmer Gene Stupnitsky, who co-wrote Year One and Bad Teacher along with writing partner Lee Eisenberg (the two also co-wrote this film), Good Boys is about three best friends (collectively known as the Bean Bag Boys) who are into role-playing card games but also strive to be relevant at school, with moderate success.

Good Boys Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Room’s Jacob Tremblay takes his first real stab at comedy as Max, who is a little bit more mature than his two buddies—Lucas (the scene-stealing Keith L. Williams), whose parents are breaking up, and would-be tough guy Thor (Brady Noon)—and as a result, has a crush on a girl at school, Brixlee (Millie Davis). He hasn’t actually worked up the nerve to talk to her, but when he’s invited to a kissing party by the hilariously suave Soren (Izaac Wang) and is told Brixlee will be there, his mission becomes clear, and he recruits his buddies to help. After a near-traumatic attempt to watch porn to get tips on kissing, Max “borrows” his father’s (Will Forte) very expensive drone to spy on the older neighbor girl next door, Hannah (played by Molly Gordon, who was so good in Book Smart as AAA), and her visiting best friend Lily (Midori Francis), hoping to catch Molly kissing her college boyfriend Benji (Josh Caras).

When the girls down the drone and hold onto it as punishment for the boys not respecting women, Thor steals one of the girls’ purses, which to happens to have Molly (the drug) in it. In a great running gag, the boys can’t actually open the bottle with the Molly in it because it has a childproof cap on it, but they arrange for an exchange with the girls at a playground, not knowing they have drugs.

Each of the boys has his own unique backstory and set of quirks. Max is the mature, sensible one; Thor is afraid of being labeled a coward, so he sips beer on a dare and drops out of his dream of being in the school production of Rock of Ages because people will think he’s not cool; and Lucas can’t lie—even worse he is almost compelled to be honest all the damn time, so when he impulsively hands over the drugs to a police officer who doesn’t believe that these sixth graders have drugs, the girls force the kids to buy them new drugs, which leads to a hilarious confrontation at a fraternity house.

Since the film is produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Good Boys is going to get compared to Superbad. The language gets raw at times, but usually just when the kids are scared or in despair. What both films certainly have in common is an overwhelming display of heart and charm. We want Max to kiss the girl (he asks permission first, like the good kid he is), and when his friends decide they aren’t into the kissing games, they leave Max to close the deal in a non-lascivious manner. The Bean Bag Boys fight and even grow apart a little by the end, but they acknowledge that they will always be there for each other even if they don’t spend every waking moment together anymore.

They kids in Good Boys don’t know what they don’t know. They have bad information and misinformation about a lot of things, and when they encounter a box filled with Thor’s parents’ sex toys, they have no idea what they’re looking at; but that doesn’t mean they don’t find interesting uses for them. While the liberal use of four-letter words does accentuate the funny here, it’s not the source of all the laughs—far from it. The kids are just that good, and you could likely cut out most of the bad language and still have a workable comedy.

But what Good Boys comes down to is two things: the film delivers frequent and mighty laughs, and I cared about these little troublemakers. The story and execution may be different, but the formula is strikingly similar to Book Smart earlier this summer, and the inescapable charm of both is what fully won me over. I adore this little gem of a coming-of-age story in which the stakes are fairly low but the potential for growth and laughs is high.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.