They could have just called it Superbad, Jr. Good Boys, producers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s spiritual prequel to their (very) seminal coming of age comedy Superbad, certainly believes there are unending laughs in watching three 12-year-old boy virgins say “fuck” a lot, mess around with molly, and get sex wrong. (I never thought I’d type these words, but they think orgasms end in pooping). What a bummer that the movie is more a fitful than constant good time. Directed by Gene Stupnitsky from a script he wrote with Lee Eisenberg — they previously partnered up on the just-OK Bad Teacher and Year One — Good Boys rides highest on the teamwork of its three young stars.
Jacob Tremblay, the boy wonder opposite Brie Larson in Room with, makes an attention-getting entrance as Max — he’s about to masturbate at his computer when his dad (Will Forte) walks in, inordinately proud of his son’s forthcoming efforts. Max is stoked to be invited to his first “kissing party” so he can flirt with fellow sixth-grader Brixlee (Millie Davis), who he’s never said a word to her and doesn’t have any idea how to kiss. For advice, he turns to his equally clueless besties. Keith L. Williams digs into the role of Lucas, who is distracted by the fact that his parents are divorcing. And Brady Noon excels as Thor, who wants to be in the school musical until the cool kids tell him being a theater geek isn’t cool. Though Lucas and Thor are too geeky to be invited to the party, the so-called ”Bean Bag Boys” are determined to make the party work for Max.
Their R-rated efforts to escape innocence are too strained to hit the comedic mark, getting bogged down in potty-mouthed repetition and one-note raunch. The boys dabble in Internet porn to learn about the mechanics of making out. (“They didn’t even kiss!” “Well, not on their mouths.) They try to try to sell a favorite trading card to an adult collector (Steven Merchant) who unconvincingly insists he’s not a pedophile. They find anal beads, a CPR doll and sex toys in the bedrooms of parents.
But Tremblay, Williams and Noon keep us rooting for the Bean Bag Boys, even while they grow apart as tweens hitting different stages of maturity — Williams is especially touching at showing how Lucas seems unable to keep secrets, especially from his parents, delightfully played by Lil Rel Howery and Retta. The best and worst thing about Good Boys is that it feels like it was written and directed by the 12-year-olds at its center.