Coming-of-age movies are such a commonplace in cinema, so it’s a good thing I enjoy them. These types of films are usually great, like most of John Hughes’ filmography, or “The Perks of Being A Wallflower“. These types of movies usually have an indie charm about them, and “The Kings of Summer” is more than charming.
Films like this only have so many things to rely on: acting, characters, story, how well the genre is executed; so that is one thing that sets this apart from something like a movie with a huge budget. “Kings” hits all of those aspects on the head, and then some.
The story follows Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), a fifteen year-old who is suffocated because his father (Nick Offerman) is a big ole jerk who isn’t easy to be around. His best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) feels so overwhelmed by his parents’ overbearing tendencies, that he is actually getting hives. The two of them, along with Biaggio (Moises Arias), decide to spend their summer in the woods building a house and living off the land, in the ultimate act of independence. Here, they are able to make their own rules and be free.
The messages in this film are strong. It shows that their lives are going to change soon whether they like it or not, as they take on more responsibility. It’s not a step, or rite of passage, that is easy to take. grow up. These kids are so willing to grow up, because they want to taste independence and be the so-called kings of their own lives; but little do they know, being a kid rocks and being an adult is going to suck.
It also expresses that family and friendship isn’t one thing someone should ignore. The family bond and loyalty lies deep, and even though one’s parents might either seem like miserable jerks (Offerman) or crazy overbearing kooks (Patrick’s parents, Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) they love you deep down and they’re only trying their best. They might not be doing the best job, but kids should go easier on parents. And since Offerman’s Frank is a widow, he has to try much harder – it would deem difficult.
The ways the writer, newcomer Chris Galletta, tests the bond of friendship between the three boys is smart and experienced. These pivotal moments aren’t forced and they feel natural in the way they happen. It is also the moment where Robinson and Basso show some real talent. The emotional punch might not be enough to make the audience cry, but it’s powerful.
Since the story is so unique, it makes the experience feel fresh. There’s enough heart warming moments, charm and hilarity to make this a worthwhile watch. An over-the-top fantasy sequence is one of the movie’s funniest moments, and there’s witty humour throughout. Offerman shines with his sarcastic comic delivery. Even in the most serious of situations, he isn’t afraid to make a joke. Alison Brie has a forgettable supporting role. Erin Moriarty (“The Watch“) has some fun with the guys.
This directorial debut from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is one for the record books, as he creates a fantastic tone and some visually compelling scenes, so kudos to cinematographer Ross Riege, as well. Some songs fit what’s going on in the film like a glove, in amusing ways.
Arias is hysterical as the film’s scene-stealing Biaggio. He is eccentric and so unpredictable that it makes for one of the funniest characters of the year. The loyalty of the character brings me to believe that he would be a great friend to have. He’s insane, but so amusing. Arias experiences one heck of a break-out role, much like Christopher Mintz-Plasse of “Superbad”. I never thought I’d see the day where Moises Arias, Rico from TV’s “Hannah Montana”, would be the best part of a great comedy. But he is, and it just shows that the right character can make an actor shine.
There is little wrong with the film, at least in a major way. Maybe it’s too short. Maybe Robinson’s beard looks weird. But there’s a lot of high-quality content going on-screen; from the witty humour (among many other things) to the set design. The house built out of stolen goods and material from the woods is the stuff of a fifteen year-old boy’s imagination. Many young teens think about making an awesome house like that, but these boys actually do it. No rent; no rules. Count me in.