Having kids curse and use inappropriate language can be funny. It’s something animated shows like South Park and Family Guy do well, and it works in R-rated comedies, if done right. In this movie, just having a bunch of 6th graders using the f-word, would’ve gotten old quick. Except that the script is so sharp, and they often have this innocence about them…so you never get tired of them trying to puff out their chests and talk tough (ie curse).
Gene Stupnitsky’s feature debut is produced by Seth Rogen, and it feels like it has the Rogen raunch. The film is like Superbad and Booksmart, with just slightly younger kids.
Max (Jacob Tremblay of Wonder and Room) has a crush on a girl, and his two buddies, all part of the “Bean Bag Crew”, are ribbing him about it. When he is invited to a party where she’ll be, and is told it’s a “kissing party,” the stakes are raised. He and his two buddies go on a quest to learn how to kiss. You’d think a simple Google search would solve that problem, but when it brings them to some hardcore porn that freaks them out, they choose to take another route.
His buddy Thor (Brady Noon of Boardwalk Empire) yearns to sing in school musicals, and shed himself of the nickname “Sippy Cup” after he refused to take a sip of beer. The bully taunted him by saying “What’s a matter? Do we need to put it in a sippy cup for you?”
The third Bean Bagger is Lucas (Keith L. Williams of The Last Man on Earth; his co-star Will Forte plays a dad, as he did in Booksmart a few months ago). Lucas is easily the funniest of the bunch, with his constant need to tell the truth (even when it’s to a police officer in a liquor store, who has no idea he has drugs on him). Not only does he lecture the group on always doing the right thing, he’s just learned that his parents (the subtly funny Lil Rel Howery and Retta) are separating.
Some of their adventures include a run in with some older girls (Midori Francis and Molly Gordon from Booksmart) in the neighborhood, who continue to hunt the trio down, after they swipe their “Molly”.
There’s a quest to get beer for the party. Not the amount Jonah Hill and Michael Cera wanted in Superbad. They just need one bottle, so Thor can break the 6th grade record of three sips, to prove his manhood and get rid of his sissy Sippy Cup label.
There are a few tips of the hat to other films. We hear Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” during a spin the bottle scene (that song was used perfectly in The 40-Year-Old Virgin); and the movie opens with the song “Jungle Fever” which was used in Boogie Nights, and the scene in Boogie Nights where the three guys rob a drug dealer and gun fire erupts…is done in a comedic way with the kids at a frat house in search of drugs. (Their weapons of choice? A paint gun and some sex toys). It might be the funniest scene you see on screen all year.
Stupnitsky (which would be a horrible name for someone that did a movie that critics found “stupid”) and his writing partner Lee Eisenberg (Bad Teacher), do a great job with the pacing of the film, and having the crazy scenarios (mishaps with a drone, trying to cross a busy freeway) all seem believable.
The jokes are really clever. Especially Lucas getting angry if girls are talked about as sex objects, or they don’t give consent (even if one of those women is a blow up doll). Oh, and who ends up with the blow up doll and how (the always creepy and funny Stephen Merchant)…and what becomes of it…will be the second funniest scenes you see in a movie this year.
The gags (no pun intended) with the sex toys got old quick, but the final scene of the movie, with the most glorious sex toy of all — makes up for that.
There’s also a sweetness about the fact that these three might be growing apart (that was also touched on in Superbad), and none of them are ready for their friendship to end.
There’s a drama teacher doing a production of Rock of Ages, and it gives us the best use of a Foreigner song on screen ever. And, when the kids sing “Walking on Sunshine” while Lucas tears up over his parents’ divorce…it’s the funniest use of Katrina and the Waves since Jack Black danced around to it at the record store in High Fidelity.
Speaking of songs, it was a great choice to go with Judas Priest’s “Run with the Devil” during a shoot-out, and DJ Shadow’s “Nobody Speak” would’ve been perfect, if we didn’t just hear it in Booksmart. That song can now be retired from films.
Not all the jokes in this land, but about 90% of them did. It could’ve also used a few less that relied simply on shock value.
That being said, the makers of Sausage Party and This is the End — Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen — have struck comedy gold again.
This will probably be the best comedy you’ll see all year.
4 stars out of 5.