The Kings of Summer Reviews
"Kings of Summer" is a kind of "Stand by Me"(there's been quite a few of those this year)type of movie. It's about 3 teenage boys who are fed up with their parents and their lives in general. So they go out in the woods and build a house and just hang out. The movie is very authentic to how friendship really is at that age. It really brought me back to my high school days and how me and my buddies would joke around. It's a very funny movie, actually one of the funnier films I've seen this year. The cast is mainly unknowns, save for Nick Offerman. Offerman plays one of the dads and he is hilarious. Between this and "We're the Millers" the guy is having an awesome year. The film does drag in parts and there are a few times where it tries to be an "artsy" movie. But don't let that keep you away, this is a very entertaining movie. One of those hidden gems that you don't hear about, but is definitely worth a watch. I bet this gets some Spirit Award(independent film) nominations at the end of the year. Good flick.
Great Film! A great mix of classic coming of age tales such as Stand By Me and the indie comedies of recent times that hits the comedic and dramatic notes without ever being saccharine, annoyingly quirky or overly morbid as so many indie comedies fall into. I highly recommend the film; it will transport you back to your terrible but wonderful teenage years and is genuinely hilarious, I can't imagine a single person not liking this film.
Joe Toy, on the verge of adolescence, finds himself increasingly frustrated by his single father, Frank's attempts to manage his life. Declaring his freedom once and for all, he escapes to a clearing in the woods with his best friend, Patrick, and a strange kid named Biaggio. He announces that they are going to build a house there, free from responsibility and parents. Once their makeshift abode is finished, the three young men find themselves masters of their own destiny, alone in the woods.
Joe (Nick Robinson) has just finished his freshman year in high school. He has a long summer ahead butting heads with his no-nonsense father (Nick Offerman). Then Joe gets the brilliant idea. He and his pal Patrick (Gabriel Basso), who is also sick of his annoying parents, will build their own home in the woods, a sanctuary where they can set the rules. Joe and Patrick pack up their belongings, find a quiet spot in the woods, and build that dream home. Biaggio (Moises Arias), a weird and gangly kid, takes an interest in the youthful declaration of independence and joins in. The guys invite girls over, explore the wilderness, grow patchy wisps of facial hair, and live out their fantasies of roughing it like real men. Of course it helps when a Boston Market is just down the road.
From start to finish, The Kings of Summer kept me laughing. I did not expect the comedy to be as consistent and thorough as it was, but writer Chris Galletta has a sure handed way of making the comedy derive from the situations and characters. Even with some outsized elements, notably Biaggio and the fact that the boys home-away-from-home is way too advanced for a kid who blundered through shop class, the humor never feels forced. That is an accomplishment, though the script also overly relies on Biaggio to say outlandish or weird lines. I especially enjoyed his one-scene pep talk with his father late in the movie. That confidant sense of humor goes a long way to relax an audience, allowing us to attune to the mellow waves of the film. It's fun to watch the guys try to forage a life out in the woods, slowly learning how hard this whole survivalist lifestyle may actually be. The adults are viewed as blithe buffoons or hardasses, though they don't come across as caricatures. Credit the attention paid to Offerman's (TV's Parks and Recreation) character as Joe's father and credit Offerman's uncanny ability to make gruff parenting endearing. This is an easy film to like, to go along with the flow, and to enjoy. It never really falters in entertainment and routinely has another joke at the ready to make you smile. It's a sweet movie that does enough to keep you charmed.
While pleasant, I had to stop and reflect that there was absolutely very little to these characters. The boys all kind of blend together in their youthful romanticism of freedom and rebellion of lame parents, but you'd be hard-pressed to describe them beyond core physical descriptions. The moments that do supply character development are mostly broadly comedic or somewhat generic in their coming-of-age tropes, notably the broken heart administered by a guy's crush. Example: Biaggio is essentially little more than a walking punchline machine. While quite funny and well acted, every line of is dialogue feels like a punchline. He comes from nowhere. At one point, Joe advises Biaggio that a girl may be interested in him, but Biaggio demurs and says that won't work out. All right, here we go. Here's where the movie sheds some light on him. Biaggio admits to being gay. The very next line involves him confusing gay with cystic fibrosis. It's a funny joke but it turns a moment where a character was getting added dimension and just manufactures another punchline. Again, The Kings of Summer is a very pleasant film going experience, and one that made me laugh consistently, but objectively, the impact is too limited because of the lack of proper characterization.
And I suppose this leads into a bigger question of whether this lack of substantial characterization even matters. Coming-of-age movies, like any subgenre in film, have their own expectations and conventions. We all have our different tolerance levels for narrative familiarity, and depending upon the genre, familiarity may be a necessity. Fans of coming-of-age films want to see those familiar elements. They want to see the bonds of friendship, the neglectful parents, the first crushes that lead to first heartaches. It's just like fans of romantic comedies finding comfort in the two leads hating one another until, inevitably, they love each other, or the public sing-alongs. I think many coming-of-age films at some level tend to be somewhat broad or generic to make them more relatable. Perhaps I'm just being too generous to formulaic pictures. If you're a fan of coming-of-age movies then you'll probably be quite forgiving of the shortcomings in The Kings of Summer. Me, I prefer Jeff Nichols' Mud and its more textured, empathetic look at adolescence in a working poor Missouri riverbed community.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (TV's Mash Up, Funny or Die Presents...) makes the film look beautiful. The romanticism of the youth running away to live in nature is improved with some spectacular looking natural settings and compositions. The film was primarily filmed in Cleveland and northern Ohio, and as a native Ohioan, I have to puff my chest. Vogt-Roberts is also skilled at handling his actors and balancing tone; while I criticize the over reliance on comedy at the expense of fleshing out characters, the tone is not divergent. It plays within the same cohesive wavelength throughout. If there is a breakout actor from this movie, it would have to be Arias (TV's Hannah Montana, The Middle). The kid has a tremendous ability to tap into an oddball character, making him quirky rather than insufferable. He also has a unique look to him, and that's got to be a plus for a working actor. Just ask Steve Buscemi.
Genial and undemanding, The Kings of Summer isn't anything close to royalty in the coming-of-age genre but it's consistently funny and enjoyable. The acting is good, the jokes work, and the movie's out after 90 minutes. It's a nice summer diversion but doesn't contain the resonance to be considered more than that. The weak characterization and broad humor, while opening its wide appeal, also makes the film less substantial. It's sweet and funny but little to distinguish it from other sweet and funny coming-of-age entries. If you're a fan of the genre or looking for a mellow and pleasant evening at the movies, think of The Kings of Summer. Just don't think it's going to be anything more.
Nate's Grade: B
An indie pseudo-arthouse take on the coming-of-age genre, 'Kings of Summer' is an instantly forgettable yet somewhat enjoyable low stakes dramedy in the vein of last year's 'Moonrise Kingdom', though thankfully largely eschewing the style-over-substance approach that makes Wes Anderson's work so difficult to embrace.
In terms of plot structure, Vogt-Roberts' debut is something of a mess, lacking the appropriate level of focus to keep you involved in the story. The director comes from a background of comedic web shorts and this is reflected in how 'Kings of Summer' plays out in a series of comic vignettes, switching attention from the trio of boys to their concerned parents.
Despite the lack of meat on the bones of its story, Vogt-Roberts' film has enough charm to keep you interested. Robinson and Basso are impressive in the lead roles and it's a nice change to see a film that doesn't ask the question of whether the protagonist will get the girl but rather how will he recover from the damage the girl has caused to his friendship.
The character of Biaggio, however, I found problematic, feeling like a concession to mainstream American comedy. We see this type of clownish, socially awkward, too often ethnic, character in every teen comedy and it feels out of place here.
While the story and characters may not linger too long in your mind, the cinematography of Ross Reige, capturing the beauty of the North Carolina woods in a manner Terence Malick would be proud of, most certainly will. His director owes him a big thank you.
Being inspired in so many places, this film offers plenty of refreshing elements, which ironically make the lapses in uniqueness all the more glaring, until it ultimately becomes not too difficult to see this narrative's path, no matter how much storytelling travels such a path unevenly. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts at least rarely, if ever allows the film to slow down so much that dullness ensues, but quiet dry spells distance as bland and stiffen pacing, loosened enough by some repetitious excesses in material and filler. The film is more-or-less unfocused at times with its pacing inconsistencies, with a less recurring, but arguably just as, if not more distancing unevenness being found within believability. This coming-of-age effort is often grounded, and when it's not, it usually works within its own loose interpretations of reality to sell real-world thematic depth, yet it often gets carried away with its dialogue snappiness, character motivations and, for that matter, overall characterization, sometimes to an unsubtle point. This film should be more subtle, considering its integrity, which, to be fair, is still challenged by conceptual depths' not being as rich as depths within the final storytelling, for this is a somewhat minimalist story with limited punch, no matter how much the filmmakers try to flesh things out. In a lot of ways, the film is not simply handled better than I was expecting, but downright near-mighty impressive, and there are plenty of glimpses of an effort so inspired that it overcomes natural shortcomings and achieves a truly rewarding status, but the natural shortcomings still stand firm, backed by the aforementioned consequential shortcomings in originality, pacing and subtlety that the strengths can't power through enough to ascend past underwhelming. Nevertheless, the final product comes close to that point, and I mean close, ultimately falling just short of its full potential, but being reasonably fulfilling in certain areas, particularly, of all things, stylistic ones.
Somewhat surprisingly impressive, Ross Riege's cinematography offers a simple, but lovely emphasis on color and lighting that draw on the gorgeous depths of an often woody environment, resulting in visuals that range from handsome to downright stunning. Another aesthetically worthy compliment to depths is the film's soundtrack, which even offers songs that, in spite of some obnoxiously contemporaneous tracks (Hip-hop... Insert shutter here), are generally tasteful and entertaining indie, if not classic pop tunes, while Ryan Miller's original compositions takes from these musical styles in a unique way that combines cute minimalist electronics and a warm heart in order to craft a stylish and tonally impacting score. Stylistically stronger than I expected, if not aesthetically outstanding, this film delivers on solid visual and musical styles that charm, while breathing life into this narrative, much like the cast. Solid chemistry bonds most everyone in this cast to sell relationship dynamics that in turn sell much of this dramedy's depths, and when it comes to individual charismas, they, sometimes flavored up by strong dramatical layers, are just as effective in selling the heart of a well-characterized script. Yes, Chris Galletta's screenplay is flawed, but it does more than just deliver on solid, if sometimes unsubtle characterization, so much so that it proves to be one of the better scripts of 2013, delivering on razor-sharp, if not all-out hilarious humor, anchored by cracklingly snappy dialogue, while still making room for tender depths, brought to life by arguably less strong, but inarguably pretty inspired direction. Jordan Vogt-Roberts' efforts are also occasionally spotty, but as far as directorial debuts are concerned, this isn't too shabby, playing on style and Terel Gibson's excellent editing to capture a consistent degree of entertainment value, and also making more thoughtful plays on style and atmosphere that immerse, if not resonate, resulting in highlights that reflect reward value through natural shortcomings. I'm practically frustrated looking at just how close this film comes to standing out, at least as rewarding, but it gets to that point somehow, offering enough technical excellence, sharp wit and heart to engage as a relatively impressive, if still improvable indie comedy-drama.
After the boys of summer are gone (Ah, Don Henley, get out of my head!), conventions, pacing inconsistencies and lapses in believability and subtlety shine enough light on natural shortcomings to drive the final product just short of rewarding, a state that handsome cinematography and visuals, a sharp and sometimes unique soundtrack, charismatic, if not strongly well-layered performances, a solid script and thoughtful, somewhat stylish direction bring "The Kings of Summer" close enough to in order to craft an adequately compelling coming-of-age character study, despite falling shy of what potential there is.
2.75/5 - Decent
The film finds two best friends, disenchanted with their hilarious home lives, finding a seeming oasis of isolation in the woods, setting out to build a house there. This disappearance sparks a rather lackluster search effort for them, while the boys enjoy misadventures with the bizarrely unsettlingly Moises Arias, while also finding themselves at odds with a girl, played by Alison Brie. While the basic elements are nothing original, the film has an original execution to it. This is most true of the humor, which, by far, sets the film apart. It's quirky, to be sure, and a bit stylized, yet it manages to dryly capture the frustrations of many adolescents, and does so in a hilarious fashion.
The performances, headlined unquestionably by Nick Robinson, are all laudable, with some of the best chemistry between child actors as I have seen. All play off the humor to great effect, and inhibit their roles to such a great extent as to make the dynamics at play feel well realized and, most importantly, authentic.
In the end, the message of Kings of Summer isn't distinguished, but the overall execution is. It's enjoyable, funny, and quirky enough to give it a serious memorable factor.
I was immersed into the life of Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), a young man on the verge of adulthood, finding himself increasingly frustrated by the attempts of his single father, Frank (outstandingly performed by Nick Offerman), to manage his life. Declaring his freedom once and for all, he escapes to a clearing in the woods with his best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and a strange kid named Biaggio (Moisés Arias). The plans are for them to build a house there, free from responsibility and parents. They manage somehow to have their makeshift abode finished, and become masters of their own destiny, alone in the woods. Several weeks pass and Patrick and Joe are now reported missing...
I have to praise the settings, beautiful sequences and solid acting, and I loved the script but there were some issues in over-explaining the emotional meaning of its moments, and especially tries to lighten the mood in sometimes awkward style, betraying the honest spirit of the movie you can feel watching it. Like the characters itself, you love and admire it as you did them, but the overall impression is that when the summer is over the courage of its convictions will disappear with the new school year. Lovely piece of work which never tries to be perfect - just enjoy it as it is.