First off, the plot of Good Boys is pretty cool: 12-year-old Max panics when he is invited to a kissing party and enlists his friends to help him get through it. Eventually he uses his father's drone to spy on the teenage girls next door—and loses the drone. We can all pretty much guess in general what happens next, but with a premise that intriguing, it almost has to be good.
Too bad 12-year-olds can't see it.
Yes, Good Boys, a putative rite-of-passage movie about pre-teens can be viewed only by those seventeen years or older, many of whom have already been to kissing parties—some planned, many impromptu.
In a world ready to explode in either Hong Kong, Kashmir, Tehran, or England, a movie like Good Boys hardly moves the needle. But it says something about society as a whole and the movie-rating system in particular. (This movie earned its R-rating due to "strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout—all involving tweens.) Sounds like a winner.
But I get it. Last week I heard two boys—I'm going to guess they were eleven or twelve—punctuating every sentence of their conversation with at least one common vulgarity. Adverbs seldom improve a sentence, written or spoken, but these two were masters of at least one as they gleefully modified verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. (Full disclosure: they found the adjectival function of the vulgarity equally useful.) The language was not so disturbing as the sound level they had chosen to express it—unaware of or unconcerned about whom they might give offense. I don't doubt the veracity of the movie's characters, nor do I doubt that the language of 12-year-olds is crude. But is there room for decorum also?
Movies need not teach a lesson—they can have purely entertainment value. Good Boys sounds like fun and I urge you all to see it if you want to and not to if you don't. Yes, you caught me—I don't care. But I know from watching Stranger Things that coming-of-age stories can be handled without strong crude sexual content and drug and alcohol material—and on Netflix no less, where good taste often goes to die.
Avengers: Endgame earned $357,115,007 on its opening weekend, but it carried a PG-13 rating which opened it up to a larger audience. Even so, I'll be shocked if Good Boys doesn't crack a quarter billion dollars this weekend. Who can argue with that? But I wonder how many children under the age of 17 will see it, and with whom? And will it become a cautionary tale or a motivational symposium? And what will be the role of the parent who buys the ticket and then shuffles the kids off to Screen 8 while they head anywhere else?
True, this doesn't rise to the level of Kashmir and India waving nukes at each other, but it does speak to what we expect of our children and ourselves, and for that matter, what we will consider crude and vulgar—if anything— in the years to come.