Fish Noir Fowl: Good Boys is Mindless, Yet Charming

As the first review in a new column for The Foreword, Jonah Saitz tackles the crude, coming-of-age summer flick Good Boys.

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Jonah Saitz

Dear Reader, 

As a lifelong film nerd, I’m pleased to announce that, beginning this month, I’ll be writing film reviews for the Foreword. I’m shooting for two reviews per month, although this will vary in accordance with my schedule. Reviews are intended to be informative, keeping you up to date with what’s happening in the film industry. While I can’t promise to keep my reviews free of bias, I can promise, firstly, that all reviews will be spoiler free, and secondly, that all reviews will be rated on an objective scale, shown below.

Story : _/10

Acting: _/10

Cinematography: _/10

Additional Elements: _/10

Production Values : _/10

Films will be assigned a score of 1 to 10 in each of the following categories: Story, Acting, Cinematography, Additional Elements, and Production Values, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest possible score (half points will be implemented at the discretion of the reviewer). The 5 categories will then be averaged, and the average will be expressed on a scale of 1 to 100.

 

Here’s a speedy breakdown of scoring:

91-100: One of the all-time greats, or an instant classic

71-90: Knock-knock-knocking on Heaven’s door

51-70: Satisfactory, but it won’t make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs

31-50: Barely worth the price of admission

11-30: Can I at least get a popcorn refund?

10 or Below: In lieu of flowers, kindly send this film to the 9th circle

 

Now for a brief explanation of each category:

Story: In my book, story is the most important element of a film. The story, also called the script, includes the characters, setting, plot, and pacing. In the words of actor George Clooney: “It’s possible to make a bad movie out of a good script, but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.”

Acting: If you’ve been reading closely, you might be able to predict what I’m about to say. Bad actors can ruin even the best script.

Cinematography: Camerawork is the distinguishing feature of cinema. The majority of moviegoers don’t pay it much mind, but an adroit director and crew who are brave enough to take some creative shots can transform a film. That being said, as long as the filmmakers are competent, run-of-the-mill cinematography probably won’t detract from your movie-going experience. Special effects are also included in this category.

Additional Elements: Let’s not forget the people behind the scenes who put on the finishing touches! If costume design, music, and editing are good enough for the Oscars, then they’re good enough for me.

Production Values: This might seem like a strange choice to round out the bunch, but the craftiness of producers can be an art unto itself. Not every producer can cough up 350 million bucks like the Avengers fat cats, which means that lower budget films don’t have the same luxuries. But the best producers know how to economize. Moonlight, for example, won Best Picture in 2017, with a budget of 1.5 million dollars. For comparison, 1.5 million is 0.4% of the budget of 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which tops the charts at 379 million dollars. Incidentally, Pirates wasn’t nominated for anything.

Hopefully my rating system makes sense now that I’ve broken it down. If readers have any questions, comments, or suggestions for improving my reviews, or if anyone has specific requests for films they would like me to review, shoot me an email at [email protected] (no guarantees that I will be able to accommodate all responses).

 

Sincerely, 

Jonah Saitz

 

Good Boys 

Despite an erratic script that relies too heavily upon one liners, Good Boys conglomeration of boorish humor and genuinely heartfelt moments is compelling at best, mindlessly entertaining at worst. 

Gene Stupnitsky’s Good Boys chronicles the escapades of Max, Lucas, and Thor, three inseparable sixth graders who call themselves the “bean bag boys.” When Max is invited to a cliquish “kissing party,” he sees it as his best chance to flirt with Brixley, the girl he has a crush on. But Max quickly encounters a problem, which is, of course, that he doesn’t know how to kiss. Max enlists the aid of Thor and Lucas, whose combined brain power leads the trio on a series of misadventures, ranging from spying on neighbors with a drone to accidental drug theft. 

Mixed in with the already overburdened script is a plethora of vulgar humor; it’s good for a few laughs, but becomes tiresome as the film progresses. 

Nevertheless, the film has genuine charm sprinkled throughout. The humor is at its best when it is at its most self aware. Notwithstanding the perceptions that the characters have of themselves (as they try desperately to be popular), the audience is frequently reminded of the fact that even the “cool kids” are still fairly infantile in the grand scheme of things. A combination of exaggerated music (typically a raucous hip-hop track), competent lighting, and clever editing continually emphasizes the ridiculousness of prepubescent attempts at maturity.

Harder to pick out in the midst of the narrative mayhem are the tender moments, which can be powerful. As the boys progress through sixth grade, they begin to drift apart, and the film raises poignant questions about the fleeting nature of companionship. The film skillfully establishes a parallel between the dissolution of the bean bag boys and the separation of Lucas’ parents, which lends real world import to the characters’ relationships.

And of course, we can’t forget the actors themselves. Even though the trio of actors was too young to watch their own film due to its adult content, their performances steal the show (the supporting cast, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired).

Though Good Boys may appeal to fans of crude Sandler or Ferrell type humor, the film is surprisingly layered and nuanced. The average viewer will undoubtedly guffaw at the abundance of slapstick and sexual humor, even as the refined eye discerns subtle satire within those same vulgarities. When all is told, moviegoers who can overlook some of the film’s flaws will gain appreciation for it. As a low budget ($20 million) end-of-summer comedy, Good Boys is certainly more moving than anyone expected it to be, likely more than it ever needed to be. 

 

Final verdict: Definitely worth the reduced price matinee ticket. 

Advice for underclassmen: This one’s R rated. Don’t forget to bring a fake ID.

Story: 6.5 /10

Acting: 7.0 /10

Cinematography: 5.5 /10

Additional Elements: 5.0 /10

Production Values: 8.0 /10

 

Overall Score (On a Dragon Scale of 1-100): 64 Scales 

 

On deck: Top 3 October Movies to Look out for

1: Joker (Superhero Crime/Drama, October 4th, R)

2: The Addams Family (Animated Comedy/Fantasy, October 11th, PG)

3: Jojo Rabbit (War Comedy/Satire, October 18th, PG-13)

 

In the hole: 2 Months in Advance

Frozen 2 (Animated Adventure/Fantasy, November 22nd, Not Yet Rated)