“Good Boys” (Rated C)
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon
Grimacing face emoji!
You know the one – the cringing face, with the open eyes and the clenched teeth!
To some, it appears the face is smiling. But the eyes really speak to the awkwardness and uncomfortable nature of the situation.
That grimacing face emoji can express in a way that few words can the feelings engendered by the new film “Good Boys”.
This comedy about three awkward tweens is as awkward as the preteen and teenage years through which these characters are so awkwardly trying to navigate. It does this with incredibly shocking (disturbing, even) language and subject matters. But it’s also undeniably hilarious and entertaining.
Invited to his first kissing party, 12-year-old Max (Jacob Tremblay) asks his best friends Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) for some much-needed help on how to pucker up. When they hit a dead end, Max decides to use his father’s drone to spy on the teenage girls next door. When the boys lose the drone, they skip school and hatch a plan to retrieve it before Max’s dad can figure out what happened.
The principal cast members – Tremblay, Williams and Noon – are all about 12 and 13-years old. And it’s bizarre seeing little children in the scenarios “Good Boys” has cooked up for its characters.
Now let’s not be naïve. This is how children at this age (and even younger) are speaking amongst themselves. They’ve learned it from the adults around them, and from popular music and the TV series and movies they watch. With the relaxed rules on basic cable television today, you’re very likely to hear at any hour of the day all manner of words which were simply unthinkable on even formerly innocuous cable networks like TNT and USA just a decade ago.
But just as it’s still a jolt to the system to hear and see in person a 12-year-old dropping f-bombs willy-nilly, it is indeed extremely uncomfortable to see these kids on screen so casually communicating in this manner.
It’s very much like a live-action version of TV’s long-running “South Park”. But what may be cute in a cartoon, can be cringeworthy with a real human child. It’s particularly shocking to see young Tremblay – who blew us away with his sweet innocence in “Room” and “Wonder” – growing up in front of our eyes and dealing with this kind of stuff already.
Just like “South Park”, however, the observations about children, and about the hypocrisy and double standards of adulthood, are fascinating and spot on. There’s no denying it, this is a funny movie. You’re embarrassed to be laughing, but you can’t help it.
Of course, you wouldn’t want your child to be in situations involving sex and alcohol and drugs, and you may even wonder which parent would allow their preteen son to act in a movie he’d probably not be able to watch for years. “Good Boys” is rated C here, and R in the U.S. While in the States this means children under 17 accompanied by an adult can watch anything, the rating here means nobody under 18 can see the movie.
As a result, it’s an awkward experience for the audience. We’re laughing at, not with, these kids. It feels almost exploitative at times. And it probably is.
While this is a sweet coming-of-(almost)age story, one wonders if it wouldn’t have been just as effective with toned-down language. That certainly would have made it something teens and preteens would have at least been allowed to watch.
But as it is, it just makes all the adults watching feel…um…grimacing face emoji!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.