Early in Good Boys, a bully tells a main character that singing in school plays is so “try-hard”. No. Good Boys is so “try-hard”. From the first second, the film dives deep into its shock gimmick. Jacob Tremblay’s character is designing a large chested video game character and plans on doing the dirty deed; he preps his room to protect himself. His dad walks in, knows exactly what he’s going to do, and things get uncomfortable. You may think “Wow. This is sudden, but it’s probably to set the tone”. No. This is the entire film. I don’t mean that the entire film is full of shock jokes (although it is), but that all of Good Boys is hastily edited, nothing more than a series of events, and absolutely zero downtime. The film feels like an extended director’s cut of the trailer. Yeah. I don’t even know what else to say about it.
Here we have three talented and capable child actors, and a director that values the exploitation of having kids do inappropriate things more than their talents. Geared as the next Superbad, this means Good Boys has to be compared to the other film to get that label from this year: Booksmart. What sets Superbad and Booksmart lightyears ahead of Good Boys is that the other two films have heart. They treat their subjects as real people. To be fair, Good Boys barely does that. Each character has personal issues: family drama, being the subject of bullying, and identity searching. So much of that takes a backseat for silly shenanigans. That’s this entire film.
So much of this film is the result of poor direction. Let’s look at the highway scene, for instance. The characters happen to mindlessly stumble upon the mall (the kind of coincidence that better films can pull off, when they at least care for a semblance of a plot). “Nobody Speak” by DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels plays, and gets played again minutes later (not even in a clever way, as if the song stopped in reaction to the film, but in a lazy way that implies the second playing of the song was because they needed to fill up empty space). The actual highway part is okay, and probably one of the very few interesting parts of the film. That’s when they come across the “CPR doll” that they sold to someone else earlier in the film. What. Are. The. Bloody. Odds. Of. This? The majority of the film is mindless, and the good parts get ruined.
The rest of the film suffers from plot holes, once again making the remainder of the film intolerable. If the boys turn on the drone as a ploy to get it back from the teenage girls, why didn’t they do this the first time they met the girls in the house? If the boys think the adult toys are “weapons”, did they not just see similar items on the porn website they tried to reach earlier? How could they not know what the phallic objects were if they know a lot about sex in the first place? How did Thor’s mom not notice his bruises? But no. The film is only concerned with creating scenarios. A cut to an old man laughing at the boys is only for him to be called “Gandalf”. Everything is for jokes. Nothing is for honest story telling. The story is to sew together jokes.
The ending tries to be profound, and it’s at least some tiny bit of effort. However, everything is so predictable in this film, essentially because its moments of empathy are by-the-numbers. In a film that tried harder to be a better film than reinforcing a premise a hundred times for 80 minutes, this would have been passable. Superbad and Booksmart are films that try hard to be something. Good Boys is try hard. Like the sixth graders trying to be the teenagers in the other films (who are trying to be adults), it gets all of the formula wrong. It has the coveted party the leads are trying to get to, and all of the events in between. It has none of the wit, barely any of the gift, and way too much grit to replace everything else. This is saying a lot, when maybe one or two moments out of countless attempts made me laugh. By the ending montage, you may start to only barely care. Good Boys as a film barely cared. After its most sentimental moments, it has to end on a shock joke, especially one that was the focal point of the major promotional trailers. Good riddance.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.