***** out of 5
Rated R for language and some teen drinking
Article first published as Movie Review: The Kings of Summer on Blogcritics.
While the summer months may be chock-full of explosions and CGI,
there are still some smaller films that demand their attention. At this
year’s Sundance Film Festival I managed to fit in one of the Festival’s
best films, The Way, Way Back with Steve Carrell and Sam Rockwell, a story about a boy’s rite of passage while working at a waterpark.
The perfect double feature would be to watch that alongside director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ The Kings of Summer, another coming-of-age film that plays like Stand by Me, reimagined by Wes Anderson. OK, maybe it’s not quite that
quirky; but it’s still hilarious, heartfelt, and honest with its
emotions. It never gets bogged down in sap and still wears its heart on
teenage Joe (Nick Robinson), living alone with his father Frank (Nick
Offerman) is no picnic. He misses his deceased mother, but keeps a
loving relationship alive with his older sister Heather (Alison Brie).
He has a crush on Kelly (Erin Moriarty) who is dating an older guy named
Paul (Nathan Keyes), who has his own apartment and throws keggers out
in the woods. After a woodland dweller shoots a gun to scare the kids
off, Joe finds a spot in the woods where he decides to build a house to
find sanctuary. He invites his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) to
join him, and with tag along Biaggio (Moises Arias), they will escape
from their parents — Patrick’s are played hilariously by Megan Mullally
and Marc Evan Jackson — to live off the land and become the men they
think they should be.
In The Kings of Summer, you really believe the friendship
between Joe and Frank — and even the possibly crazy Biaggio. You also
feel the hurt when the truth between Kelly and Joe’s standing rears its
head, and when tragedy strikes — as it always does — towards the end.
Harkening back to the youngster rapport of the aforementioned Stand by Me, along with The Goonies, or even the more recent Super 8
(which Basso was also in), the performances keep it together. The
particular highlight however, is of course, Offerman. Every line out of
his mouth is solid gold. As for Mullally and Jackson, all kids think
their parents could be aliens, but there’s a strong case to be made that
Patrick’s really may be.
teenage antics are never overplayed, and writer Chris Galletta
definitely remembers what it’s like to be an awkward teenager all too
well. Even if director Vogt-Roberts relies a little too heavily on the
use of slo-mo and loves his nature shots too much. We already know
they’re out in the woods, just let the cast deliver the goods — which
they do. The Kings of Summer certainly won’t be ruling the box
office, but CBS Films has picked up a film ripe for awards season and I
doubt it will be overlooked. I just hope audiences decide to go because
it deserves the word-of-mouth as The Kings of Summer is one of the best films of the summer, and of the year.
Photos courtesy CBS Films