Reckless Youth Featured

Summer is a fine time for the reckless youth and that is reflected on the screens of your local multiplex. Unfortunately, summers aren’t lazy at the movies and sometimes the films fly too fast for us to review them all individually. For times like that, we have Short Takes like these. In this edition, we look at GOOD BOYS, DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.

Reckless Youth: Good Boys
Keith L. William, Jacob Tremblay, and Brady Noon get ready for shenanigans like reckless youth do in GOOD BOYS. (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Reckless Youth, Middle School: GOOD BOYS

The delightful surprise of GOOD BOYS is how honest it feels. The fear with these kinds of films is that the whole humor will boil down to, “small people say rude things,” the sort of opposite age version of the rapping granny. And yes, these good boys sure do swear. But all of the language is grounded in an understanding of being a kid around 11 or 12 years old. They swear but often are just approximating proper usage. They’re like parrots, grasping how the words sound and how others may react but not really grasping the mean.

The whole thing is obviously heightened. It is, most likely, more profane than your average trio of sixth graders. It features far more encounters with party drugs, dodging traffic, and fighting frat boys than most 11-year olds manage. However, it never goes too far. It never loses its obvious affection for its characters or forgets how it felt to be in sixth grade, experiencing the first big internal transitions of your life.

None of that would work without the strengths of the leads Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon. The three just lay out the weird rituals, complicated fears, and beginnings of self-denial just to fit in for the world to see. It is, to steal someone else’s terms, the exact right kind of un-self-conscious self-consciousness that mark pre-adolescence.

Reckless Youth: Dora
Eva Longoria, Isabela Moner, and Michael Peña work up a sweat treasure hunting in DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD. (Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Reckless Youth, Treasure Hunting: DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD

There is an odd sort of tension at the center of DORA. No, not that tension. That guy…that’s a whole terrible thing we aren’t going to get into.

However, there is the question of who DORA is for. It shades a bit older than the cartoon’s demographic, which makes sense. However, it feels way too young for those that first fell in love with DORA THE EXPLORER in 2000. The series last season, effectively, was 2013 and perhaps those kids are a bit more in the range? In practice, the whole thing feels a little neither fish nor fowl. It wants to be for the young ones but it also wants to bring back the older fans and it never really manages that mix of tone.

That said, the 6-12 set will likely find some fun. The teen performers are game, the older actors seem largely willing to play along, and the action is kid friendly and pleasing. In the audience I saw it with, the assembly of youngsters giggled and wowed where appropriate. Despite my feelings about the movie not seeming to find a demographic, the children seemed to get it.

There’s nothing here for me to love — excepting, maybe, the incomparable Michael Pena — but this isn’t really a movie for 30-plus year-old adults. Kids get to have movies for themselves too.

Reckless Youth: Scary Stories
Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza meet “Harold” while trying to fix their reckless youth acts in SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. (Courtesy of CBS Films)

Reckless Youth, Horror Show: SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

Who knew that the summer movie to provide one of the more blatant commentaries on our lives now would be an adaptation of three books published in ’81, ’84, and ’91 (although, in practice, really only drawing stories from the first and third volume)? I did not expect it, I confess, but we live in wild and wooly times.

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK unfolds in 1968 during the few days between Halloween and Election Day. It is a world where a leader everyone seems to know should not be elected is nonetheless about to be. Where an ill-defined war in a place most Americans have never and will never go is marching on even as the population begins to realize it cannot be cleanly won. Where police harass “outsiders” on the basis of race. Like I said, world outside our doors.

In the midst of this very real-life horror, a group of teens discover the local legend, of a cruel ghost who tells stories that lead to death, dismemberment, and disappearance, is very real. Stella Nicholls (Zoe Margaret Colletti) rushes to figure out what can be done to stop it. Her friends, enemies, and associates, meanwhile, fall to the STORIES, one by one. Much of it plays like IT, Junior Edition, and I do mean that as a compliment. It is definitely PG-13 horror, but it really puts its proverbial back into it. It could be a late summer lark on that alone.

Then, the final twist pulls you back to relevant again as it reveals the town’s original sin was blaming violence not on the white men perpetrating it but the mentally ill. That’s what makes it linger.

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