The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer photo starrating-4stars.jpgThe Kings of Summer should’ve been called The Boys of Summer. My mind keeps going to that title. First off there’s the iconic Don Henley song from the 80s which I love. And secondly, this is a coming of age story about three young men. They spend the summer living off the land in a fortress they build in the woods. I‘ll admit, the “kings” of the title is poetic as their reasons are to cast off the shackles of their “oppressive” existence with their parents and live like kings in the forest. I put oppressive in quotes because their home life, while exacerbated by parents they view as a burden, is fret with the kinds of problems that any well cared for adolescent might encounter. Lead protagonist Joe is played by Nick Robinson. The actor is the heir apparent to a young Emile Hirsch. Basically the reality of these entitled kids is pretty good. Granted, he’s recently lost his mother. That’s a devastating misfortune and now he has a shaky relationship with his father. Actor Nick Offerman (TV’s Parks and Recreation) portrays him as a strict authoritarian, but it’s certainly not something he should be despised for. After all, he’s also grieving the loss of his wife.

The Kings of Summer is a wonderful little film, but it’s diminished with some issues that keep it from being truly great. Joe’s pal Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is fed up with his parents (Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson). In fleshing out their personalities, writer Chris Galletta has made them almost suffocatingly nice. It’s an awkward way to mine laughs. It feels more like a writer’s construct than the way real parents actually behave. Ditto the boys’ third friend Biaggio played by Moises Arias. He’s some arbitrary weirdo that shows up at a party. He’s a sensitive chap, but thoroughly weird. It doesn’t make sense why he becomes part of this friendly threesome. His purpose appears to be a focus of hilarious vignettes from which to extract humor.  For example he confuses being gay with having cystic fibrosis. That’s random.  Despite this, the three of them do form a warm camaraderie that is indeed satisfying.

The Kings of Summer is a compelling comedy. What separates one passage into manhood from another is the ability to resist clichés and create an affecting portrayal. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ debut feature is worse than some, but better than most. The movie recalls the youthfulness of Stand By Me with the quirkiness of Moonrise Kingdom thrown in. No it’s not as triumphant as those pictures, but it’s still pretty enjoyable.  It’s a beautifully shot reminiscence on what it means to be a teen boy growing up in rural Ohio. Their rite of passage in the woods is an experience that deeply bonds the three. All three leads are charismatic actors that form a rapport as they face the world. We genuinely want to see these three succeed, despite the lack of observable pain in their lives. This trio forms a fascinating friendship. Their journey is timeless tale which makes it meaningful for the rest of us. There is insight, warmth and joy in their saga.

18 Responses to “The Kings of Summer”

  1. Glad you liked it. I disagree, however, about Biaggio. Sure he was weird and didn’t fit in (kind of?), but his inclusion really added a lot of much needed humor to the flick. Check out my review here-


    • No disagreement there. I recognized his humor in my review.

      The part that was hard to swallow was that the other two would be buddies with Biaggio. He was incredibly socially awkward yet the other two were very self assured. If anything they would typically be bullies to him. His presence felt more like the manufactured friendship of a writer than one of three people who would genuinely become friends.


  2. Nice review. I am a big fan of Nick Offerman, so I’ll try to check this out.


  3. Looks hysterical, not sure when it comes out in the UK but i’ll definitely grab a copy 😀


  4. I’m really looking forward to seeing this. I love these Stand by Me type films.


  5. Wordschat Says:

    As we said on FB it is that mix of Moonrise with Stand by Me plus a dash of Mud put in which makes the puberty coming of age angle the focal point of conflict. That is where it excels. The Megan Mullaly mother and father are suffocating sweet in a Cosby sitcom way which really grated on me bring a 4 star to perhaps a 3 star rating.


  6. The feeling of the movie was fine, it was the kids who annoyed me cause they didn’t really have much to them, other than being your standard teens who want to live life on the wild-side. It was fun to watch, but I didn’t believe in it totally. Good review Mark.


    • I liked the camaraderie they had with each other. For example their musical performance using the pipe was amusing. I also responded to the warmth in the script.


  7. I will have to wait to rent this one, but I am excited for it. I will look out for that actor you compared to Emile Hirsch!


  8. Not as quirky as “Moonrise Kingdom”, not as magical as “Stand by Me,” but this falls in between the two. “The Kings of Summer”, is one of those movies that captures your attention, right from the start. The stories of each of these boys is fun, sometimes serious. I really liked all the characters. It just made me feel good. I would definitely give this 4 stars. Well worth it.


  9. Nice review. I would have to totally agree about the “suffocatingly nice” bit — at least as far is it can be applied to Patrick’s parents. They actually bugged the crap out of me, even though I knew they were intended to be the focus of comedy outside of the woods. It was a little annoying since every adult here seemed to be portrayed as incapable twits, which I guess was nice for awhile but it kind of wore out its welcome. This still didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film, though. It was a relatively insignificant film but was still worth the money to go see IMO.


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