By Dwight Brown
Quick! Someone call Child Protective Services. Three juvenile actors have been kidnapped and forced to play bawdy tweens in this uncontrollably hilarious coming-of-age film.
With a salacious script by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, pervy direction by Stupnitsky, and a sense of devious humor that reeks of producer Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express), audiences will laugh themselves silly after they’ve been shocked into submission.
Somewhere in the ‘burbs three 12-year-olds have formed a friendship called the “Bean Bag Boys.” There’s Max (Jacob Tremblay, Room), Thor (Brady Noon, Boardwalk Empire) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams, TV’s The Last Man on Earth).
They aren’t the coolest kids in sixth grade, but they have each other’s backs. So, when Max decides to go to a kissing party so he can smooch with his school crush Brixlee (Millie Davis), his buddies are onboard. When Max wrecks his dad’s (Will Forte) prized drone, Thor and Lucas try to help him solve that problem too. That’s how they roll.
A steady outrageousness permeates most scenes, and the kids milk those moments. They are foul-mouthed, like sailors on leave. They talk about sex in naïve but graphic ways that would embarrass Dr. Ruth. They grimly attempt to drink beer as if they were tasting castor oil. And they flirt with adulthood not like mature youths, but like little kids who are in deep waters way above their heads.
Makes you wonder who is the target audience? With an “R” rating, technically an adult would have to chaperon kids who want to see this debauchery. Though some parents may turn a blind eye to this rampant recklessness (the running across the highway scene is way over the top), others won’t. And don’t be surprised if youngsters sneak into theaters eager to see their alter egos holding it down on screen. They will.
Regardless of your moral take on what’s on view, if you can get past the stilted editing (Daniel Gabbe) and leave your social consciousness at the door, there are laughs to be had at kids trying to act like adults, when clearly they have no grasp of real adult stuff and especially sex. One kid asks another, “What’s a nymphomaniac?” The other answers, “Someone who has sex on land and sea.”
You’ll never get used to the tweens saying the oddest grownup things. It’s a sustainable gimmick. It’s like a pebble in shoe that won’t go away. A retold joke you shouldn’t laugh at, but you do. Add in the weirdest use of sexual paraphernalia as toys—a recurring gag—and the footage becomes more twisted as the film progresses.
It’s helpful that the script has made the three leads distinct characters. Lucas’ honesty is his blessing and curse, especially when the kids confront a police officer (Sam Richardson, Veep). Thor should wear an “L” on his forehead, he’s a kid with a bad self-image. And Max makes wrong decision after wrong decision.
How outrageous is this stuff? Think Hangover, then subtract about 20 years off the main characters. Think of Tremblay (Max) as a tiny Bradley Cooper. Noon (Thor) the musical theater kid, as Jack Black. And, Williams (Lucas) is the spitting image of a young Craig Robinson (The Office) and has his deadpan delivery. The boys are so likable, you’ll want them to resolve their dilemmas (Should they sell their parents’ blowup doll, or not?) and survive their ordeals (How do you escape a bad drug deal?).
The supporting cast is suitably zany: Forte, Lil Rel Howery, Retta (TV’s Good Girls) and Enid-Raye Adams. With a special mention for Molly Gordon (Booksmart) and Midori Francis (Ocean’s Eight) who play two twisted girlfriends who have a special relationship with “Molly.”
Nothing technically distinguishes this film from any other mid-budget comedy. The musical score is nondescript (Jonathan Furmanski) and the sets and color palette are decent (Jeremy Stanbridge, production design: Sean Goojha and Craig Humphries art direction; Victoria Pearson, set decoration.)
Audiences looking for an outlandish comedy will get what they want. College kids will laugh their asses off—especially if Good Boy becomes a midnight movie cult classic, which it might. Those looking for a deeper meaning in this 89-minutes of total irreverence will have to look close for a moral to the story. But there is one. It has to do with good friends growing apart to find themselves and that being a normal part of life.
If you have very mature PC sensibilities and would abhor children acting like rogue adults, stay away. If you think middle-school students should be seen and not heard, don’t buy a ticket. And if you’re tempted to call Max, Thor or Lucas “kids,” expect some clap back. Max says: “We’re not kids, we’re tweens.” And if you don’t take the hint, he’ll scream: “Stranger Danger!”