Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Rarely do I step out of the movie theater with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and calm. Coming of age movies can do that. It takes everyone in the theater back to a simpler time in life and helps them remember their age of innocence, their teenage angst and that rough transition into a growing adult. “The Kings of Summer” is the contemporary boys becoming men comedy that will have audiences reflecting upon their golden youth along with some hearty laughs.
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) has a strained relationship with his father, Frank (Nick Offerman). Ever since Joe’s mom passed away, they’ve been at odds. Frank only speaks in a condescending tone and tries to keep Joe under his thumb. Joe’s friend, Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso), has an equally frustrating home life. His naive parents (Marc Evan Jackson and Megan Mullally) politely question him at every turn. Mr. and Mrs. Keenan are definitely smug up-to-date versions of the Cleaver folks, if not frighteningly more cheery. After they both have some frustrating dinners with their families, the two boys sneak out of their homes and head to a party to celebrate the end of the school year. Joe’s going in the hopes of flirting with the girl of his dreams, Kelly (Erin Moriarty). During the keg supplied, social gathering, they run across Biaggio (Moises Arias). He’s a peculiar boy who is small in stature and is a literal interpretation of the phrase, “out there”.
After an adult spoils the party for these high schoolers, Joe heads back home through the woods. Joining Joe on his way back is the consistently bizarre Biaggio. They stumble across an open space in the woods. It is there in the knee-high grass and weeds under the perfect view of the starry night sky, that’s Joe’s frustrations seem to melt away. That’s where an idea quickly grows and infests his mind. Build a home in the woods and runaway to it. After some convincing, Joe, Patrick and Biaggio are convinced that a home in the woods is where they will become men and live out their lives. The rest of the movie has the trio building the home and roaming in the surrounding woods. What’s refreshing about this movie is that it’s in a contemporary world, but they’re not texting away on a phone. They’re not hypnotized by television. They aren’t zombified by the latest gore drenched video game. It’s almost like a fairy tale that these teenagers would leave the electronic world and hideaway in the woods in a candlelit home. Also most kids running away steal their parents car and credit cards for a trek across the county. Not put together a home out of construction scraps.
The cast is well put together and the characters each offer something different to the story. Even the two police officers dealing with the parents have their moments. The movie has a delightful indie soundtrack that accompanies the serene shots of wildlife and the boys exploring the terrain. The comedy is refreshing because there’s no throw away sex jokes or fart gags. The two best character in this movie are Frank and Biaggio. They have some of the best one-liners and quips. Nick Offerman was definitely born to embody a bitter middle aged man who only speaks in sarcasm. Throughout the movie, Biaggio turns from freakishly quirky to charming by the end of the movie. If you’re looking for a grand deep meaning to this movie, you won’t get it, but what you will get it is an entertaining summer movie with delightful and sympathetic characters.
After the movie, I stepped outside into the mild evening air. I tried to reflect back on the movie, but my only thoughts and feelings I had were of reliving youth. Getting together with some friends, going out to camp for the weekend, sharing some beers around the campfire and remembering the “good ol’ days”. Alas, I have work to do and bills to pay, but as I drove home from the theater, I felt revitalized and peaceful. “The King of Summer” is exactly what I needed, just like diving into a cool pristine lake on a humid summer day.