I must admit that I went into the recent comedy Good Boys with some trepidation. Good Boys is best described as “Superbad, Only With Younger Boys,” as that 2007 comedy has become the most riffed-on concept for a movie probably since Die Hard. The film’s Superbad pedigree is even stronger than most, because it not only brought aboard that film’s screenwriters, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as producers, but it borrowed not only the plot structure but also the general values of the earlier film.
So why did Good Boys make me nervous? It’s mostly because I’m the father of boys myself – they’re 7 and 9 – and while the kids in the movie are 11 or 12, my sons are getting dangerously close to that age.
Must Be this Tall to Ride
Good Boys arrived in theaters in early August, following a South by Southwest debut and an aggressive, ever-present advertising campaign; every time I’ve watched a Hulu show in the last three months, it’s been interrupted about 5 times by the exact same Good Boys trailer.
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky and written by Lee Eisenberg, the R-rated comedy is centered around a trio of sixth-graders (Jacob Tremblay, Keith Williams, and Brady Noon), lifelong friends who call themselves “the beanbag boys.”
The plot, set over the course of a single day, has the three boys headed to their first kissing party, and seeking pointers on how to learn how to do it. This leads to a long series of hijinks involving a slightly older female neighbor, a drone, and a bottle of molly.
Going into the film I was nervous, for a simple reason: this is going to be my kids, in a couple of years.
Because they’re 11-year-olds, the three boys are curious about sexual matters, although their confusion leads to numerous comical malapropisms. There’s also a running gag which, sadly, never pays off, about one of the boys’ parents having a roomful of sex toys – the purpose of which the kids don’t quite understand.
Going into the film I was nervous, for a simple reason: this is going to be my kids, in a couple of years. The kinds of conversations and incidents hinted at in this movie are in the not-too-distant future and after all, I know myself what it’s like to be an 11-year-old boy. Am I ready for that?
Heart Wins in the End
Luckily, the film did a lot to ease my mind. For one thing, it’s a quality comedy, one filled with first-rate gags, and the three main young actors are very talented.
Good Boys keeps with the tradition not only of Superbad, but also just about every comedy ever directed by Judd Apatow, the Farrelly Brothers, or their various proteges and imitators: Sure, it’s a raunchy comedy, filled with sex talk. But ultimately, it’s about heart, sweetness, and the sanctity of male friendship. This is true even, as with Superbad, a third-act twist raises doubts over whether the friends will stay friends. Good Boys, in a very 2019 touch that recalls lasts year’s Blockers, even tosses in dialogue about the importance of consent and respect for women.
…ultimately, it’s about heart, sweetness, and the sanctity of male friendship.
A strange thing about Good Boys? As an R-rated movie starring pre-pubescent boys, it’s the sort of movie that you’d think would be controversial, except that… it wasn’t really, at all. The release of Good Boys set off no anger or cultural panic, nor did it lead to a frenzy of think pieces about how problematic it was, as was the case with this spring’s Booksmart (i.e., “Superbad, Only With Girls.”)
As the Father of Sons…
By now, it’s a rather well-worn cliche for the sort of men who had been flippant about sexism and sexuality for their entire lives to suddenly embrace a newfound feminism once they become the father of a daughter. For an example, see just about everything Bill Simmons wrote about women in his early ESPN days, as opposed to now, when he’s 50, the dad of a teenaged girl, and thanking Megan Rapinoe on his podcast for serving as a role model for his daughter.
In my case, being a father to boys has made me think about gender stuff in a way I never had before- that, and just the way issues like that have been in the national conversation more in recent years. As a parent, you see the way boys and girls are socialized differently, whether it’s the odd comment on the soccer field that “you’re playing like a girl,” to various attitudes about who’s calling who what on the playground.
…the movie shows that even as that’s happened, it might not stop them from being decent, well-adjusted people…
I appreciated the way Good Boys navigated this territory, and it actually left me with hope. Sure, within a year or two my kids’ minds will likely be going places that I don’t even want to think about. But the movie shows that even as that’s happened, it might not stop them from being decent, well-adjusted people who know that love and friendship are important things.
At some point, probably a few years after that, I might even show them Good Boys.