For over a decade Seth Rogan has forged a career in comedy with an oscillating flair for finding the funny in the situations with which he engages. Though humour is often championed as belonging to the ear of the behearer, the case might be made that there have been as many if not more moments in Rogan’s films that rely on sex and drugs to be the joke, rather than actual jokes.
Sex and drugs, of course, can be wildly funny though they are not inherently funny on their own. The subjects of most jokes aren’t funny when there is not a joke connected to them. We may laugh at people taking MDMA when there are no accompanying jokes but we’re bringing our own experience with MDMA to those laughs. Good Boys, produced by Rogen, smacks of his distinctive brand of comedy, though it curtails his two old favourite tropes by the restrictive ingredient that the three protagonists are in sixth grade.
Max (Jacob Tremblay) , Lucas (Keith L. Williams) and Thor (Brady Noon) are ‘tweens’, as they are fond of reminding anybody who refers to them as children. But really, they are still children, caught in that age in which a boy knows breasts are appealing but is not entirely sure why. It’s that same age when we act old but think young.
Sex and drugs plays a significant role in Good Boys, which is directed by Gene Stupnitsky, but the filmmakers have been forced to adjust their comedic perspective, lest the film veer into the territory of the wrong. The best part about the film is that it manages to engage with adult humour while promoting three naive children as its main characters. The kids’ innocence is often the subject of the humour but that humour is never condescending.
Faced with the prospect of attending a ‘kissing party’, Max, Lucas and Thor decide that they need to learn how to kiss, fearing that they might embarrass themselves in front of the cooler kids. Finding pornography too confronting to deal with (and lacking kissing on the mouth), the boys decide to engage with a spot of voyeurism in order to gain insight into the daunting task.
This involves a drone, and two young – but older – female neighbours, and miscommunication. The girls take the drone, belonging to Max’s dad, to teach the three boys a lesson. In retaliation, Thor swipes one of their handbags, not knowing that it contains MDMA (‘Molly’ in America).
The restrictions in regard to subject matter here work in the film’s favour and at the same time are somewhat of a burden. The film is sweet, but rarely uproariously funny, arguably because of the comedic restraints. Paradoxically, the film’s best moments come about because of the inexperience and innocence of Max, Lucas and Thor. Lucas, in particular, is memorable as a boy who struggles not to abide by rules.
As is not uncommon in these sorts of comedies, it is cheap references to drugs and sex that illicit the weakest laughs. Is it funny to see boys misinterpret sex toys? Perhaps, once, but Good Boys flogs this brand of humour to death while bypassing some moments that actually contain jokes too quickly.
Good Boys is light and engaging and funnier than most comedies but that is more telling of the climate of contemporary comedy than it is many virtues on the part of this film.