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The World Is Not Ready for This One

Samara Weaving
Samara Weaving
Fox Searchlight Pictures
 95 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed ByMatt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Starring: Samara Weaving, Andie McDowell
Ready or Not

Art Linkletter, a popular TV celebrity of the 1950s, had a segment on his daily variety show called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” During the segment, Art would interview pre-teens and coax them into revealing family secrets of the sort that show up regularly on this generation’s iteration of the concept, America’s Funniest Home Videos. Of course, being the 1950s, the kids would sometimes hint at risqué goings-on in their household, but the humor and language were at-worst barely PG-rated. Fast forward to 2019, and kids still say (and do) the darndest things, but those things have definitely crossed way over into R-rated territory as in the at-times sweet and at-other-times raucous comedy, Good Boys.


The inspiration behind Good Boys was the 2007 comedy Superbad, about a couple of mostly clueless and totally dweebish teenagers trying to become, ahem, real men. Already this summer, we’ve seen a distaff variation on the Superbad theme, Booksmart. So, the next logical step in this progression is Good Boys, which takes a look at three sixth-graders who seem destined to grow up to become the protagonists of Superbad. The two films share a common lineage of sorts, since two of the producers of both films are Seth Rogen and Evan Greenberg, and much of the humor in Good Boys comes straight out of the Rogen playbook.


In all honesty, based on the movie’s trailer and its relationship to Rogen and Greenberg, I expected Good Boys to be about three boys engaged in nonstop cursing and uttering crude sexual references. But I was wrong. Admittedly, there are far more than enough vulgarity and sexual references in Good Boys to earn its R-rating, but the film has a heart, and a more sanitized PG-13 version of it would have been a pretty good movie as well.


The three protagonists in the movie are on a day-long quest, much like the characters in 80s fare like The Goonies and Stand by Me. They are best buds Max (Jacob Tremblay), Lucas (Keith L. Williams), and Thor (Brady Noon), who call themselves the Bean Bag Boys and play video games together. But video games are for fifth graders, and, now that he’s in sixth grade, Max’s mind turns to romance. He’s been invited to his first “adult” party, one at which there is bound to be kissing, and he really wants to put the move on his crush, Brixlee (Millie Davis). His only problem is a lack of knowledge of the details, so he enlists the help of Lucas and Thor. After first learning that there’s little actual kissing in a porn movie, they decide to further their education by spying on the teenage neighbors, Hannah (Molly Gordon) and Lily (Midori Francis), using Max’s father’s drone.


The espionage mission proves to be a crushing failure when the girls grab the drone, but the boys are eventually able to negotiate a swap of the drone for some molly Hannah had in her purse that Max was able to grab. As usually happens in movies like Good Boys, the farther along the boys go, the deeper in trouble they get. Their misadventures include trying to sell an inflatable sex doll to a creepy adult, crossing a busy freeway, and engaging in a paintball showdown with a group of frat boys. And, as you might expect, the threesome’s friendship is tested severely on multiple occasions.


Despite the presence of Rogen and Greenberg behind the scenes, Good Boys marks the directorial debut of Gene Stupnitsky, best known for penning several episodes of The Office with co-writer Lee Eisenberg. The script does a very good job of character development for the three lead actors, all of whom have problems that you wouldn’t expect to see in a film like this. Max, of course, needs a crash course in becoming a sixth-grade lover. Lucas, who is the straightest of straight arrows (his George Washington-like inability to tell a lie makes their escapades even more hazardous) is wondering if he’s to blame for his parent’s impending divorce he just learned about. And, finally, Thor tries to project a macho image, which leads to abject embarrassment when he finds himself unable to compete in a beer sipping contest with a few of his classmates.


I confess that I don’t remember beer-sipping contests (five sips is an unheard of number for this crowd), but that’s typical of the brand of humor in Good Boys. These sixth graders display a mixture of bravado, fear, and ignorance as they toss around four-letter words with ease while clearly not understanding what they mean. Their ignorance of all things sexual leads to befuddlement when confused with sex dolls, vibrators, and anal beads (which Max gives to Brixlee, thinking them to be a necklace). It’s crude, to be sure, but also touching, in its own way. More than that, their mix of knowledge and ignorance, feels just like what youngsters can acquire nowadays by the time they get to middle school. The film could have turned the three leads into pint-sized, wise-cracking Seth Rogens, but, to its credit, it didn’t. Moreover, unlike the constant stream of f-bombs that the script also contains, the jokes in Good Boys manage to stay fresh when repeated in different variations throughout the movie. 


A large part of the reason for the success of Good Boys is the talent of the three leads. These are three accomplished juvenile actors who make their characters distinct from each other, yet complementary parts of what feels like an actual clique. In a movie in which adult presences are few and far between, the creation of a realistic sixth-grade world is essential. These three boys are likable and believable. 


Indeed, Good Boys as a whole is believable, at least on an individual-scene level. When the movie does delve too much into slapstick or physical humor, like the paintball and freeway scenes, it shows its immaturity level and appears too much like juvenile family fare featuring the same generation of actors. But as a 21st-century version of “Babes in Adult Toyland,” the movie works. Of course, like most R-rated crude comedies, a lot of jokes misfire, but they keep coming at a fast pace. In the end, Good Boys is funnier than most teen sex comedies and distinctly more memorable due to its casting. That casting will probably make Good Boys a continuing video favorite in years to come, but the movie will earn its notoriety. Good Boys is a good movie.  

In this clip, Samara Weaving learns that she will be playing Hide and Seek.

Read other reviews of Ready or Not: 

Ready or Not (2019) on IMDb