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GOOD BOYS: 4 STARS. “a real sweetness to the proceedings.”

Raunchy yet innocent. Naïve but course. Whichever you want to say it “Good Boys” is a “Superbad” riff on one of life’s rites of passage. Starring Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon, none of whom are old enough to buy a ticket to see their own movie, it’s an R-rated but sweet film that has more going for it than the novelty of foul-mouthed preteens.

It all begins with a kiss. Or at last the promise of a kiss. Sixth-grader Max (Tremblay) has been invited to his first kissing party, where he has plan to plant one on his crush Brixlee (Millie Davis). “Tonight is our first middle school party. There’s going to be girls there. You know what that means?”

Trouble is, he’s never actually spoken to her or kissed a girl. His pals Lucas (Williams) and Thor (Noon), the Beanbag Boys, can’t offer any practical advice in that regard but are game to help their friend get some smooching experience. “We need to see real people kissing. That’s the only way we’ll learn what we’re doing!”

Googling porn doesn’t illuminate anything. “They didn’t even kiss!” “Not on the mouth, anyway!” They use Max’s dad’s (Will Forte) drone to try and spy on the girls next door (Midori Frances and Molly Gordon) but they catch on before the boys learn anything useful. Desperate for information the hormonal hombres hit the road—literally, dodging traffic on a bustling six lane highway—that sees them encounter a sex doll they assume is a CPR practice dummy, vitamins that are actually MDMD and a frat house filled with bros. “You let us run around with drugs, fight with frat guys, and lock a cop in a convenient store with what I now suspect is a d*ldo,” Lucas says to Max.

“Good Boys” is best summed up by its rough ‘n ready Red Band trailer. The kids swear, a lot—Art Linklater would be shocked by the potty mouths on these darned kids—and find themselves in adult situations that often veer over into slapstick, and yet, there’s a real sweetness to the proceedings. They are at that very specific time in life between childhood and adolescence, just on the cusp of not wanting to put away childish things but speeding toward a hormonal future they don’t quite yet understand. That leads to very funny misunderstandings and an escalating series of events.

At its raunchy little heart, however, “Good Boys” is about growing up and growing apart. The Beanbag Boys may think they’ll be friends forever, but as the girls next door explain, they’re probably really only friends because they live close together, have parents who are friends and are in the same class. It’s a bittersweet realization in a movie that succeeds because of the chemistry between the three leads.

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