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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Gene Stupnitsky
scr Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky
prd Lee Eisenberg, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver
with Jacob Tremblay, Keith L Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Josh Caras, Will Forte, Retta, Lil Rel Howery, Michaela Watkins
release US/UK 16.Aug.19
19/US Universal 1h29
Set in a fantasy version of pre-teen angst, this comedy works overtime to be rude. A wildly inaccurate memory of how it feels to be a 12-year-old boy, the script indulges in cheap gags at the expense of its characters. Viewers who live in this kind of false nostalgia will love it, because it has a steady stream of genuinely funny moments. But life was never like this.
As they begin sixth grade, three buddies feel like they've arrived at the big time: the smart-sensitive Max (Tremblay) has a crush on Brixlee (Davis), the enthusiastic Lucas (Williams) is shaken that his parents (Retta and Howery) are divorcing, and theatre-lover Thor (Noon) is trying a little too hard to be cool. When they get an invitation to a party thrown by popular kid Soren (Wang), they realise they need to learn how to kiss first. And this leads them on an adventure involving two older girls (Gordon and Francis), dad's drone and some molly.
All of this comes recognisably from the Superbad world of producers Rogen and Goldberg, who delight in chucklehead humour that springs from a juvenile view of sex. These kids may be tweens, but they are improbably naive (a 5-year-old could school them on most things). So while the running gag about how many sips of beer a child can survive is funny, it isn't smart. The constant swearing and innuendo are purely superficial, trying to shock the audience without pushing a boundary.
Thankfully, the actors make the characters memorable. Tremblay, Williams and Noon are a terrific triple-act, bouncing off each other as kids who have sworn lifelong allegiance without understanding the nature of growing up. Each adds strong emotions and lively wit, even when they're directed to wildly overplay a comedy set-piece like (ahem!) running across a busy highway. The young supporting cast adds texture, as do comic geniuses like Retta and Howery as Lucas' bickering parents. Although Forte is wasted as Max's frazzled dad.
It's ironic that the rating restricts 12-year-olds from seeing this, because most children would recognise immediately that these kids are nothing like them. Sure, it's fun to laugh along with movies like this, but it's simplistic to think that pre-teens are ignorant about anything even vaguely adult. Bowie of course said it best: "These children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations; they're quite aware of what they're going through."
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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