It's always a nice feeling for a critic to be pleasantly surprised by a film. Director Gene Stupnitsky's comedy Good Boys is a much better movie than its crass trailers and commercials indicate.
Three 12-year-old friends (Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon) are just becoming interested in girls. They find out about a spin-the-bottle party, but their efforts to prepare for the event lead to a series of disasters.
The film is essentially a middle-school version of Superbad. But it's a funny, well-made riff on the 2007 film that made stars of Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. Good Boys' portrayal of 12-year-old boys feels authentic. It's an age where boys start to become interested in adult things and desperately want to seem worldly and experienced even though they aren't. The script (by Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg) gets a lot of laughs from those contradictions.
There is some gross-out humor, but like the better versions of that comedy sub-genre (There's Something About Mary, American Pie), Good Boys actually seems to care about its central characters. The plot's escalations mostly make sense and do not feel contrived or forced. The film clocks in at a swift 90 minutes in an era when too many comedies unnecessarily bloat their running times.
The three leads all do excellent work, but Good Boys also gets plenty of laughs from its supporting cast. Sam Richardson, an actor I don't recall seeing before, steals his one scene as an exasperated police officer in a convenience store.