Legally, the target audience of middle schoolers won't be able to see the movie. (Image via Universal Pictures)

‘Good Boys,’ Seth Rogen’s R-Rated Middle School Film, Is a Gamble on Shock Factor

It’s middle school in its all awkward, inappropriate glory.

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It’s middle school in its all awkward, inappropriate glory.

For many, the middle school years are probably some of the worst years of life. With puberty, bullies, first crushes, annoying younger siblings, increasing pressures from parents and drifting apart from childhood friends, how kids managed to deal with all of it at only 12 years old is truly a miracle of life. Depicting the rigors of middle school has become a trope in the media, preying on the seventh grader in every viewer, hoping to find some relatability to market on.

The Seth Rogen style of film has been a comedy staple in movie theaters throughout the past decade. From “Superbad” to “Neighbors,” the dirty, curse-filled masterpieces have been favorites of many. They were the type of movies that middle school kids had to sneakily watch without their parents knowing.

So what could those two things possibly have in common? It’s a film called “Good Boys,” and it’s coming out this August.

“Good Boys” stars Jacob Tremblay, the breakout star from “Room” and “Wonder,” as well as newcomers Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams, as three inseparable best friends at new middle schools. As the curtain opens on their sixth-grade year, the trio decides that this will be their year to finally break into the popular crowd.

Part of mission popular is getting Tremblay’s character Max to share his first kiss with his crush Brixlee (Millie Davis, who also starred alongside Tremblay in “Wonder”). All of this seems possible, especially after Max receives an invite to what is rumored to be a “kissing party” at a popular kid’s house. But when the trio breaks Max’s father’s drone, they put their ability to go to the party in jeopardy. As they scramble to get the gadget fixed, hijinks ensue.

“Good Boys” features just about every middle school cliché out there. From juice boxes and pesky little sisters to bikes and spin the bottle, it’s all in there — and viewers love it all the more for it.

But there is one thing in this movie that you won’t find in other films that feature tween boys as the leads: an R rating. And this isn’t an “Eighth Grade” situation, where the rating came as an unwanted side effect of honestly portraying adolescent drug and alcohol usage, fighting or sexual content. No, the “Good Boys” team knew exactly what they were doing.

I’ll be honest. The film’s best comedic moments completely rely on the shock value of hearing young kids use the same vernacular as a character in any other Seth Rogen comedy. If you took the film and made the characters in high school or college, you would have a pretty bland comedy on your hands. Also, it would essentially be a stripped down “Superbad” at that point.

Surprisingly, however, all of the inappropriate content the tweens in the movie encounter is handled quite tastefully and innocently. Basically, there really isn’t a shtick of a bad—ss kid who curses all the time and does whatever he wants. The characters are all just normal middle schoolers who definitely just watched their first R-rated movie and had their mind completely blown. They all just want to seem older and cooler while still looking like toddlers.

Everyone has been there. Middle school boys are gross. And it’s refreshing, albeit strange, to see middle school boys talking the way they actually do in real life.

This all begs the question: Who is this movie for? The obvious answer is adults. The trailer itself features Rogen telling the three stars that they won’t be able to watch their own trailer due to its adult content.

Still, there are quite a few teachable moments in “Good Boys” that might be beneficial to middle schoolers, such as how to deal with peer pressure and that it’s okay to have multiple groups of friends. These themes aren’t cleverly hidden in the R-rated content either; they are extremely prevalent in the film, to the point where they may grow boring to those who solely want to watch kids drop the f-bomb and experiment with drugs. This is probably where the film’s marketing problem is likely to come in.

It’s clear right now that they are likely going for relatability and nostalgia. At the early screening I was able to go to at my college, we were all invited to write down our most embarrassing middle school moment on a giant poster. The problem with this approach lies in the fact that I found it hard to find nostalgia in a film where the kids have Uber and virtual reality at their fingertips.

The nostalgia is there — in the awkwardness of trying to talk to your crush, the desire to fit in with the “popular crowd” and the unbreakable bond you had with the other kids in your neighborhood — you just have to look for it.

There is also the all-too-real problem of lack of parent research. Without watching the trailer or looking at the rating, people tend to think all movies featuring kids are for kids. When I saw “Eighth Grade,” there was a group of kids under the age of 8 who were constantly being ushered out of the theater by their mothers.

Overall, I think if “Good Boys” keeps pushing the nostalgia element in their marketing, they have a good shot. In a summer stacked with horror blockbusters and reboots of childhood favorites, it is unlikely to be a standout, but it will certainly be a fun time.

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