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It takes big balls to release a movie like Good Boys in today’s PC environment.

Kids in the film swear like sailors, unknowingly sniff anal beads and run across busy highways without looking both ways. It might just be the all-time cinematic winner for child-delivered profanity, topping the likes of the original The Bad News Bears.

Actually, I should delete the word “might”: It’s the winner for sure.

Jacob Tremblay, the cute little dude from Room, goes full stank-mouth mode as Max. He’s a member of the Beanbag Boys (they call themselves that because, well, they have beanbags), along with pals Lucas (a scene-stealing Keith L. Williams) and Thor (the wildly funny Brady Noon). Their junior-high social activities consist of bike rides and card games—but things are taken up a notch when they are invited to a party that will include, gasp, a kissing game.

The trouble then begins, involving the destruction of a drone owned by Max’s dad (Will Forte); a predicament that involves a stash of Ecstasy pills; and two older, meaner girls, Hannah and Lily (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). The goal—to reach the kissing party unscathed, with a bottle of beer so that they look cool—is blocked by much tween drama.

This film announces it’s not playing around right away, with the Beanbag Boys unleashing a torrent of obscenities showing they’ve been familiar with these words for at least a couple of years. As a former adolescent, I can attest to this reality: Kids do curse, and they love to curse. Deal with it.

Hearing kids talk like this in an American movie is oddly refreshing. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny to hear these words coming out of Tremblay’s cherubic face. As the title of the movie implies, these are good boys, even though they curse like Samuel L. Jackson in a Tarantino movie. They have dirty mouths, but they are anti-drug and anti-bullying—so much so that the film belabors those points a little too much and too obviously.

It’s no big surprise that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the men behind Superbad, had a hand in producing this. The plot is very similar; in fact, Good Boys could almost qualify as a Superbad prequel or reboot, since the plot focuses on three kids trying to get to a party with alcohol in tow while cursing a lot. Jonah Hill’s Superbad kid kept getting hit by cars; Lucas also suffers grave, humorously depicted injuries along the way. It’s the same movie. It’s funny as hell, but it’s the same movie, just set in junior high rather than high school.

Director Gene Stupnitsky, making his feature debut, gets a gold star for getting kids to say this stuff with a straight face. (Lordy, there must’ve been a lot of takes.) The film sometimes feels a bit hollow, as if its only reason for existing is to show kids cursing a lot. Still, hearing kids curse a lot is hilarious.

Tremblay, Williams and Noon deserve a lot of credit for making this all so much fun. Tremblay, who has the most serious acting chops of the trio, is a natural, and he provides a great anchor for the madness. Williams is, at times, heartbreakingly sweet, especially when his character is dealing with the breakup of his family. Noon brings a pretty stellar singing voice to the proceedings, and it is put to good use on a rousing Foreigner track.

The summer needed a big blast of funny stupidity, and Good Boys provides it. It’s ripe for a sequel, where these kids are freshmen in high school. I think that premise is going to get the greenlight here real soon—and maybe McLovin will make a cameo.

Good Boys is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The great Melissa McCarthy suffers from the Ben Falcone curse yet again in Life of the Party, a shitty Back to School rip-off—which makes it double-shitty, because Back to School sucked.

Falcone is McCarthy’s husband, and he has now directed her in three movies, all bad. Tammy was one of McCarthy’s worst films, while The Boss was better but still pretty terrible.

McCarthy plays Deanna, a frumpy middle-aged mom with a daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), going into her last year in college. Within minutes of dropping their daughter off at school, her husband (Matt Walsh) dumps her for a real estate agent played by an actress from Modern Family (Julie Bowen).

A dejected Deanna decides to enroll in school—a shockingly easy process in this film—and finds herself not only attending college alongside her daughter, but hanging out with her and her sorority sisters. She’s considered a square at first, but a quick makeover during a party has her emerge as the coolest new girl on campus.

Before long, she’s pulling all-nighters in frat houses with her new boyfriend (Luke Benward) in one of the film’s few likable aspects. (McCarthy and Benward are somewhat funny together.) She’s also break-dancing at ’80s themed parties, and desecrating the wedding cake at her ex-husband’s wedding. Basically, it’s a film full of comic setups that feel torturously familiar and ripped off. I’m surprised McCarthy didn’t bust out a vocal rendition of “Twist and Shout” à la Rodney Dangerfield at the ’80s party.

The movie is populated with characters played by stellar actresses who could’ve used some more screen time. Gillian Jacobs plays Helen, a genuinely funny character in concept: She’s an adult college student in school after spending eight years in a coma. Her story probably would’ve made for a more interesting movie, but the screenplay buries her deep in the background. The same goes for Heidi Gardner, one of the bright spots on this season of Saturday Night Live, as Leonor, Deanna’s goth roommate who never leaves their room and likes to hide in their closet. She’s funny, and rather than use her more, she’s saved for a dopey punch-line involving Christina Aguilera.

I’m always amazed when a film with McCarthy in it is awful, because she’s so damned good. Movies like Life of the Party make me mad at the movie, and not the star at its center. She does what she can with lousy material, and even manages to squeak out two or three genuine laughs. But her material here is her enemy.

The film starves for that moment when McCarthy transcends the material and lets loose in the way that only she can. It’s PG-13, so her penchant for profanity-laced dialogue art is mostly stifled, although she gets in a couple of good ones involving Google and her vagina.

Instead, we get scenes like Deanna getting nervous and sweaty during a midterm speech, and her trying to get laughs out of pit stains. There’s also an agonizing dance-off between her and one of the school’s mean girls, culminating in a stunt woman busting out those aforementioned break-dance moves. It’s beneath McCarthy’s talents in every way.

I’m thrilled that McCarthy and Falcone are happily married and working together—something tough to pull off in nasty Hollywood—but the fruits of their union are not magical in the cinematic sense. They should put the “making movies together” part of their relationship on ice. It’s just not working out.

Life of the Party is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews