When the first words out of young Jacob Tremblay’s mouth are “F—, yeah!” as he’s about to ogle pictures on his laptop, you know what you’re in for with Good Boys. The MPAA’s rating carries this impressively specific warning: “Rated R for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout—all involving tweens.” All of which adds up to forbidden fruit for tweens who will undoubtedly try to find ways of seeing this comedy without their parents.

They could do a lot worse. Like the far superior Superbad, which this superficially resembles, the raunchy gags are counterbalanced by the sincere depiction of youthful friendship and innocence. Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon play a close-knit trio of sixth graders who are in a hurry to grow up and don’t realize how much they don’t know. The promise of a Friday night “kissing party” propels the story, with Tremblay eager to get close to a girl he’s been too nervous to approach at school.

The concerns of these kids aren’t so different from those of older teenagers we’ve seen many times onscreen. Their younger counterparts want to appear cool to their classmates, and can’t admit their ignorance of the things they’ve vaguely heard about, especially where sex is concerned.

Good Boys has some funny set-pieces as it proceeds along a fairly predictable path. Director and co-writer Gene Stupnitsky and his screenplay partner Lee Eisenberg collaborated on Bad Teacher and its TV spinoff, and share other successful comedy credits. They certainly know the audience they’re playing to. Their film was produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who wrote Superbad and created a milestone comedy feature. This one isn’t super or bad, but it treads on awfully familiar ground.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024