Grade: C-
Entire family: No (older teens only)
Comedy
2019, 90 min., Color
Rated R for crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout—all involving tweens
Universal
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Trailer
Amazon link

Good Boys was so heavily advertised on TV that I felt compelled to let Family Home Theater readers know whether it’s another Stand by Me classic that’s well worth the amount of R-rated material, or if it’s just an ironically titled companion to Bad Grandpa or Bad Teacher.

This much seems true: if you’re going to make a raunchy comedy about American boys, it had better be funny. Otherwise, the raunchiness feels like a cement overcoat that drags it down into the muck. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, if it doesn’t make the film funnier, why even include it? When the lines aren’t funny, it just gives viewers an uncomfortable feeling to be watching sixth graders talk the way these kids do about sex (they have no clue), drugs (even more clueless), and beer (don’t get me started).

There’s maybe a dozen laugh-out-loud moments when the R-rated material is funny. Otherwise, the f-bombs and confused sex talk coming out of tweens’ mouths isn’t as hilarious as writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky seem to think it is. What’s worse, given the precociousness of kids these days, their naivete is hard to believe. Even a younger sister recognizes a sex toy and tells them about it, which all but draws attention to how difficult it is to believe the boys are that clueless.

The first half of this “adventure comedy” is flat, dull, and, for the most part, devoid of laughs. The three main characters are played by actors who seem stiff and self-conscious—though when the second half finds them working with better material, audiences can see that the problem lies mostly with the writing. Writer-director Stupnitsky also penned the screenplay for Bad Teacher, and if you know that in advance, you pretty much know what you’re going to get with Good Boys.

I had hoped to discover another Stand by Me, A Christmas Story, or The Sandlot, but this one simply doesn’t measure up. While it’s not impossible to make a ‘tweens version of SuperBad, it really does come down to the laughs. And Good Boys doesn’t have enough of them to compensate for the R-rated material that without the laughter simply makes you cringe.

The concept certainly had potential. Twelve-year-old Max has the hots for a girl at school, and when a “cool kid” who brags about taking sips of beer (“four is the record”) invites Max to a “kissing party,” Max’s hormones take over. He asks pals Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) to help him prepare, but when they break Max’s father’s rule and take his expensive drone to spy on neighbor girls to maybe get a better idea of what’s involved in kissing, the drone crashes and the girls hold it hostage. Then they have to do what the girls say in order to get the drone back, and still, somehow, figure out how to survive or even thrive at that kissing party. It could have been a tweens version of Date Night—a domino chain of mishaps leading to that party—or it could have had the nostalgic humor of Wonder Years. There was something about both of those comedies that rang true, despite the exaggerations and gags, and you could say the same thing about Stand by Me, A Christmas Story, and The Sandlot.

But you can’t say it about this film. The characters develop a little more warmth and relatability in the second half, but hampered by bad lines it’s hard for them to be Good Boys and funny at the same time. Lucas’s screen father is very funny in announcing that nothing will change with the divorce (“You’ll have two Taco Tuesdays. Only one of them will be on Wednesday”) and the running gag about Thor’s parents’ sex toys (the boys think a sex doll is a “CPR doll” and think anal beads are jewelry) are funny—if you don’t think about it too much. I mean, what 12-year-old boy can’t recognize a penis-shaped dildo?

Language: These kids use the f-word more than college students, and there are plenty of lesser curse words as well, so many that I can’t recall a scene without swearing

Sex: Mostly the sex toys, a reference to masturbation, boys’ surfing the Internet looking for porn (we don’t see it, and they scream when they do)

Violence: One character goes postal with a paint ball gun, one of the boys gets punched in the face, another gets hit by a truck while riding his bike, and one character pukes when another’s arm is being put back into its socket

Adult situations: Aside from the beer sipping, there’s drug use and a drug theme throughout the film, and one Peeping Tom jump scare

Takeaway: As it turns out, they could have titled this Bad Boys and it still would have been ironic