You never really know what to expect from a film that makes headlines because of leaked photos showing a child actor in blackface. Good Boys caused a great deal of controversy when TMZ leaked photos showing one of the stand-in actors having been made to look darker-skinned. Seth Rogen apologised, obviously, but it’s a weird thing. In this day and age, why would anyone think it’s a good idea? Now, I’m not an expert but surely there are better ways of dealing with inconsistencies like this? For one thing, find someone who looks more like the main actor? There have got to be loads of kids out there who look similar enough to Keith L. Williams, right? Anyway, I guess it got the film noticed. Although, it’s a film that sees Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg producing a version of Superbad with kids. It was always going to get a fair bit of attention.
Think back to the 2016 Oscars. A 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay turned up to the Oscars looking bloody adorable in his tuxedo. The world went gooey. Cut to 2019 and he’s a bit different. We see him now swearing like a trooper, watching porn, and kissing sex dolls. It’s a bit of a different image, to say the least. But that is the world of Good Boys. Something that has been described as Superbad Jr by almost everyone at this point. Although, it is the best way to do it. Good Boys takes that template; replaces Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mint-Plasse with kids; and sees how much comedy they can get out of that. And I guess you can see why it was worth a try.
The film follows three pre-teens who have named themselves the Beanbag Boys. As they enter the sixth grade, the trio finds themselves worrying about things they weren’t ready for. Tremblay plays Max whose crush on his classmate, Brixlee, reaches a crisis point when he is invited to his first “kissing party”. His friend Thor (Brady Noon) is desperate to get in with the cool kids even if that means giving up on his love of musical theatre. Finally, there’s Keith L. Williams as Lucas. He’s the true good boy of the group but finds himself struggling to come to terms with his parents’ divorce. It seems that the sixth grade is going to be a pretty big deal for each of the boys.
Max gets them an invite to the “kissing party” and all three start worrying about their lack of knowledge. Turning to various sources, including their first experience of porn, the trio manages to get themselves in a tricky situation. After pissing off the teenage girl who lives next door, they end up on an adventure where they must replace Max’s dad’s broken drone. But, as is always the case in these kinds of films, the story isn’t actually that important. It’s just something that is intended to get the boys into increasingly silly situations that don’t make much sense.
And, whilst this is a charming, funny, and sweet film, the humour kind of relies on the repeated joke that these are children. We constantly see them naively getting things wrong and it quickly loses its effect. The first few times we see them struggle to open child-proof medication are funny. It’s just not something we need to see quite so many times. The film has been written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky who both wrote for the American version of The Office. So, they have a bit of a comedy pedigree. It’s just that they quickly run out of steam and rely on doing the same thing over and over again. I guess it’s a lot like the American version of The Office in that respect. And I say that as someone who liked the American version.
Although, they almost manage to pull off a refreshing melancholic final act. It just ends up going on a bit too long and dragging everything down a bit. This is a film that starts well, goes a bit too far in the middle, and almost gets back to its original brilliance at the end. With a bit more refining and a rewrite, this film could have been a really good comedy. However, it just ends up being a bit too one-note. It’s not a bad watch but it’s not the kind of thing you’ll be desperate to rewatch it. You might as well just go back to Superbad.