Familiar Territory – Good Boys

Maybe it’s just me getting older but it feels like legitimately good comedies are getting harder and harder to come by. Besides horror films, I can’t think of another genre that’s been on such a steep decline over the past few decades. The gradual PG-13-ing of the film industry has increased revenue but it has come at the cost of creativity and quality, especially in those two genres. Again, it might just be me but the majority of comedies these days are uninspired and, more importantly, not really all that funny. Thankfully, there have been a string of R-rated comedies over the past few years that may just buck the trend back in the opposite direction. Good Boys probably won’t go down in the annals of history’s greatest comedies but it has heart, it’s funny, and it may help swing the pendulum thanks to a #1 opening weekend. 

Gene Stupnitsky (left) and Lee Eisenberg (right) at the Good Boys SXSW premier

There’s no mistaking this movie is cut from the same cloth as Superbad, one glance at the promotional materials and you can see the branding stamped all over it. However, it was only Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who carried over as producers and Lyle Workman who did the music for both. Acting as though the movie was made by the same people is a bit of false advertising but it still has much of the same feel anyhow. Writer/Director Gene Stupnitsky wasn’t involved with Superbad at all nor was writer Lee Eisenberg. The pair did, however, make Bad Teacher and a couple of episodes of The Office together which does explain the vulgar R-rated approach. While the profane and sexual language was certainly a selling point during the ad campaign, this was a story about friendship in those formative years. 

(from left to right) Keith J. Williams, Brady Noon, and Jacob Tremblay

Between Jacob Tremblay, Keith J. Williams, and Brady Noon the core element of the story worked well. These three friends are a familiar middle school group that’s starting to change thanks in large part to hormones and peer pressure. Much of the character design is based in cliches, which didn’t do much for modernization, but most people can relate to those years so it wasn’t entirely detrimental. Naturally, the dialogue between them is vulgar for the sake of it but there is a genuine, relatable narrative beneath it all. The script focused on early romantic experiences, divergent interests that come with growing up, and understanding what it means to be a good friend. It’s a well-known coming of age story that we’ve seen told time and time again over the years but this one is told on an accelerated timeline thanks to technology. As much as this movie seems to want to push the envelope, it fell back on the more comfortable plot points of its predecessors more often than not.

Midori Francis (left) and Molly Gordon (right) scold Tremblay for spying on them

The strongest element of the movie is the relationship between the boys and the high school girls looking to get their drugs back. Molly Gordon and Midori Francis worked well with the kids and brought the danger to the plot, although they aren’t really antagonists in the conventional sense. Ultimately, it’s the boys’ decision making that’s causing all their problems but the ladies did a nice job of driving that point home. The payoff in that relationship wasn’t as worthwhile as it should have been but it came to a surprising conclusion, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies. 

August has been a truly weak month at the movies. Hobbs & Shaw was able to dominate the month despite being the ninth installment of a declining franchise in which this latest entry is only ranked 6th (as of this post) when it comes to highest-grossing (5th globally). The Rock and Jason Statham are surely a winning combination but I haven’t seen the flick yet for the reasons I listed. I’m not being disparaging here, just demonstrating the lack of competition. Besides 2017, this has been the worst August domestic box-office (as of this post) since 1998 with Hobbs & Shaw representing ⅓ of the total gross…so kudos to those guys. 

Good Boys was never meant to be that kind of summer blockbuster. However, financial returns are always an important consideration. By those standards, it was a legitimate success having more than doubled its production cost. I doubt it will stand the test of time but it did what it set out to do.

Recommendation: If you enjoy most coming of age comedies, there is no reason you wouldn’t enjoy this enough to make it worth your while. There still isn’t much competition out there, so what have you got to lose?

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