Review: The Kings of Summer
Sick of being treated like a kid, Joe and his best friend Patrick run away from home and build a home in the woods. Joined by a mysterious and and psychologically unhinged kid that neither of them know very well, they continue to live in the woods as their parents think that they have been kidnapped.
Who’s In It?
The main characters are three guys that you might have seen on TV now and again, but thanks to Kings of Summer, you’re about to see them a lot more often. Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias play the three main characters. In supporting roles are more great TV stars, including Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Alison Brie. Also making an appearance is Mary Lynn Rajskub as a police officer and Thomas Middleditch (a name you will absolutely know in a year’s time) as her partner.
Following the current trend of describing movies as ______ meets Superbad on crack, Kings of Summer is Stand By Me meets Superbad on crack. It’s got the friends growing up, running away from home, and hanging out in the woods that Stand By Me had, and it’s got the swearing, comedy, and hilarious characters that Superbad had.
However, if for some reason it became out of fashion to label a movie as _____ meets Superbad on crack (but really, why would that ever go out of style?), Kings of Summer would have to be described differently. In many ways Kings of Summer is a great coming of age film with a memorable premise and genuine characters. The great performances by Robinson, Basso, and Arias – aided by the fact that they were close to the actual age of the characters they were portraying – helped to ground a movie that would otherwise have been about a bunch of teenagers who manage to build a sturdy house with found materials in an un-ordinarily short period of time. Though the film is certainly an indie, and therefore focusing heavily on character interactions and lacking any distinct action or particularly memorable climax, there is so much about it that works that it is impossible not to leave the theatre satisfied. The R-rated comedy elevates the film above traditional indie fare, the characters speak with realistic yet funny dialogue that is on par with the way actual teenagers speak, and simple one-liners are delivered in a way that makes them more than throwaway interactions.
Another thing that works with The Kings of Summer is the chemistry between its leads and their realistic friendship. It’s possible to see these characters being lifelong friends, and even though the situation they find themselves in is slightly unbelievable, it’s their chemistry that helps the movie through some rough patches.
One of the only things that hurt The Kings of Summer is the comparison to Stand by Me and Superbad. It’s an unfair statement and an even worse marketing ploy, as Stand By Me is the best coming of age film of all time and Superbad is the funniest movie of the last decade. When compared to these classics The Kings of Summer can’t help but come up just a bit short, but hey, that’s still pretty good.
Should You See It?
Though a last minute plot twist seems to weaken the overall character arcs in the film, the acting, direction, and dialouge are still more than strong enough to make this movie a must see.
When asked if he has heard of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Joe’s father (played by Nick Offerman) responds in his classic Nick Offerman-esque way: “Yes, I experienced a childhood on the planet Earth so I think I’m familiar with that one. Do you think you could apply it to my situation in an allegorical fashion?”