I’m sure many people remember that one trip to the theaters—you know, that one movie that was different from all the others. Maybe it was The Lion King blowing your mind at the age of 8. Or maybe it was that 70mm restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or maybe it was the first time you saw that one crappy romantic comedy on the first date with the love of your life.
For me? This might seem weird, but it was Superbad. I had just started college. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And more than anything…I didn’t know the first thing about talking to girls. I was a helpless, hopeless virgin scared to death of what might happen to me over the next four years.
And Superbad was there for me—in a profound way. I know it’s not as deep as A Clockwork Orange or Citizen Kane, but I found solace in how wildly entertaining Superbad was. It was addressing every emotion and fear I felt during my freshman year of college in the most absurd, over-the-top, gut-wrenchingly hilarious way that provided such catharsis for me. It was one of the only times I saw a movie several times in a theater. I went multiple screenings with the same friends—and we laughed our butts off every time. To this day, I probably watch Superbad at least every other month.
Believe it or not, I think Superbad is the quintessential film for Millennial boys. Every generation has a slate of movies that “defines” them, and I think Superbad belongs in that discussion. It’s not the kind of movie that makes it into the Criterion Collection, mind you, but it will undoubtedly remain a component of the movie zeitgeist for years to come. When my friends and I—and that includes dozens of friends, by the way—think about the movies that have defined our generation, that one sits right near the top. Whether or not you like it, it’s an undeniably important coming-of-age movie for a number of Millennial men who went through a similar situation.
Then this past weekend, we got the sort-of sequel to Superbad with Good Boys, which blew everyone away by opening to the #1 spot at the box office with $21.4 million. It’s opening is comparable to Superbad‘s, which opened to $33.1 million back on August 19, 2007. Back then? Superbad held the top box office spot for two straight weeks.
Whereas Superbad addressed Millennial teens as they embarked on college, Good Boys addresses Generation Z, aka iGen or Centennials. We haven’t really landed on a name or date range for this generation because…they’re so new. We’re still figuring out what it even means to be part of Generation Z. The Millennials, Generation X, The Baby Boomers have all been defined—but Generation Z? Nothing concrete will solidify for years.
And that’s why a movie like Good Boys is important. Stripped of genre obligations, Good Boys purely focuses on the pressures, obligations and fears of a budding teenage boy in 2019. Mind you, it’s done comedically. But there’s something so familiar about how candidly the film depicts the life of a 12-year-old kid embarking on junior high, which is a different take than the defamiliarized approach of films bound by their genre, like Stranger Things and Alita: Battle Angel.
And I think that’s why audiences responded the way they did this weekend. Instead of rewarding the film with the multi-million dollar budget, people wanted some insight into Generation Z. It’s a movie for the kids of that generation, but it’s also a rare peek behind the curtains for the preceding generations. We won’t have a full grasp on Generation Z for years to come—but because of movies like Good Boys, we can start to piece that puzzle together.
Other films have addressed this growing generation over the past few years, including movies like Booksmart (which focuses on girls) and Blockers (which is probably more focused on the parents than the kids). But Good Boys feels like the first film to address the males of Generation Z in a Superbad-esque way. It should be no surprise, then, that the writers of Superbad—Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg—produced Good Boys.
It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, but I have a feeling Good Boys will hold a special place for many people in 2019 just like Superbad did back in 2007. Good Boys may not the most glamorous movie, and it won’t make the AFI 100 or anything…but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important film. The movies that industry lists “decide” are the best and most important aren’t always important, cathartic movie-going experiences for their respective generations—not in the way Good Boys will be for Generation Z.
Which makes this R-rated comedy with a $20 million budget and a cast of kids…kind of a big deal? And people proved that by paying the price of admission this past weekend.