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Good Boys (2019)::rating::3::rating::3

Like Eighth Grade and Mid90s before it, Good Boys takes a long look at the cringiest part of childhood:  Those godforsaken tween years can feel like a smoldering no man’s land, between the children we were and the adults we’re meant to be.  The journey from one side to the other is fraught with raging hormones, burgeoning sexuality, and smothering peer pressure.  Good Boys centers on three kids who are just peeking  out from the trenches and trembling at the battle ahead.  The filmmakers try and ease the awkwardness with some Superbad/American Pie-style humor, like honey to help down the medicine.  What results is a strange alchemy of wry and raunchy that might surprise you with just how smart it really is.

Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon) have been best buddies since kindergarten.  Leaks begin to spring in their friendship dam when Max grows smitten with a classmate (Millie Davis), Thor tiptoes toward a singing career, and Lucas wants to join a ferocious brigade of hall monitors.  These disparate issues come to a head when the boys get invited to a–dun dun DUNNNN–kissing party thrown by the cool kids.  Max nabs his father’s drone, hoping to catch an educational glimpse of the older neighbor girls kissing a boy.  Naturally, the drone gets wrecked and the girls catch on to the scheme, setting up a series of John Hughes-inspired shenanigans.

Most of these hijinks are actually pretty funny, especially when they riff on the trio’s relative innocence about the adult world around them:  The boys geekily gawk at internet porn, with the guileless hope that it will teach them about the ways of love.  (One of the boys:  “They didn’t even kiss!”)  Drugs are met with righteous indignation, while sipping beer is seen as a herculean test of manliness.  All three actors are note-perfect as boys who have somehow remained shielded from the temptation of technology’s instant gratification.

At the same time, the Bean Bag Boys speak with prolific amounts of profanity, as if they’ve seen every Judd Apatow movie many times over.  (And it ain’t no coincidence this thing was co-produced by Seth Rogen)  It seems pretty incongruous that their dialogue could brim with worldly intelligence, and yet they’ve never seen two adults kiss before.  Or that they would know absolutely nothing about drugs or alcohol.  It’s clear that all the f-bombs are a hook to lure audiences, more than an integral part of the actual plot.  I think the movie could’ve worked even better if some of the obscenity was filched from the script.

But that’s not a deal-breaker.  Good Boys tackles a supremely awkward time of life with an unusual amount of finesse.  It will probably make you laugh, but the filmmakers fold quite a lot of truth into their humor.  Despite the modern setting, anybody who’s lived through these limbo years in any era will spot a piece of themselves in Good Boys.

89 minutes.  R.

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