The Kings of Summer Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 19, 2014
The kind of refreshing and funny indie dramedy tailor-made to charm everyone at Sundance, with its share of indie clichés and a director who seems very eager to show that he can direct, and it is worth seeing especially because of Nick Offerman and Moises Arias, both hilarious.
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2013
Decent movie. I expected to like it more, though.
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2013
A spectacular good time that shines with humor and drama. The best kind of guilty pleasure entertainment. A classic coming of age comedy that shines with brilliant humor, adventure, a great soundtrack and originality. A triumph for Director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts. It's absolutely wonderful and ambitious film. One of the years most tasteful, inventive and excellent surprises. A charming, unique, hilarious and heartwarming movie. An awesome and relate-able experience. The cast is so funny and has such great chemistry together. The performances from its young and gifted cast are all perfect. Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias are sensational. Arias gives a show stealing performance, he is so outrageous you have to see him work to believe what he can do.
Super Reviewer
½ October 11, 2013
"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.
Super Reviewer
May 17, 2013
This comedy has all the things I truly love in an indie film: a story that concerns coming of age, a weird supporting character who says creepy things, bracing cinematography, and great comedic actors in the cast. I got all of that and more when watching "The Kings of Summer" a story that seems atypical, but has the many characteristics of past great teenage dramas. The best description I've read for this film is "'Stand by Me' meets 'Superbad'" even though I think it's less raunchy than the latter, and less bleak than the former. It's simply about personal freedom during puberty, when everything is set out for you, and how you can be yourself while wandering, not knowing where you're going. Three teenagers named Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio decide to leave their home lives behind and build a house in the forest. They run away, eat canned food and Boston Market, catch rain through their tin roof, hang out with friends, and run through the trees without a care. The implications behind whether they can live out there and their own skewed views of their parents aren't addressed at first, but the film slowly builds. In the end, we're not sure what Joe learns from the experience, but his father certainly learns about himself, and that lies in contrast to Patrick who must realize that having caring parents isn't a bad thing. Biaggio remains the wild card in the story, because he's written to be odd. That's his only purpose, and we learn exactly zero about him, except that he's braver than most people, and he likes a girl. That was upsetting, because Biaggio's strange humor was the only thing I really didn't readily enjoy about the film. Otherwise I found the supporting cast to be hilarious, the cinematography was breathtaking, and the setting invoked teenaged rebellion and the flights of fancy that come from summer. It's a throwaway film about the joys of being young, and though overdone in context, this film had some new and interesting things to say about it.
Super Reviewer
½ October 3, 2013
Why live when you can rule.

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.
Super Reviewer
September 28, 2013
Having one of the most loveable casts in any coming-of-age stories of the past decade, "The Kings of Summer" embraces it's strong title and really makes itself the King of indie films of the 2013 year. I loved every second of this film, from it's Into the Wild feel, mixed with extremely funny humour from the writer of "(500) Days of Summer," this is not a film to miss. As two boys, along with another unknown kid who tags along, they stray away from their families and wonder into the woods to build there own home for the summer. Learning how to be real men, these boys learn the values of life, love, and the things that really matter in life. Every shot in this film seems planned in every aspect and the Cinematography is really what will pull you into the film right off the bat, along with some unique editing choices. It's a very nice, fun and heartwarming film that I will remember for a very long time, and is easily one of the best films I've seen in 2013.
Super Reviewer
½ September 17, 2013
The Kings of Summer is a highly entertaining teen comedy about the pressures of growing up. The film manages to capture what every teen feels at some point in their lives. The film provides a good mix of drama and comedy, and the cast are very good in their performances. I would say that this is among the finest films of the year, one that deserves to be seen by film fans looking for a picture with a compelling story. Even if it's oriented somewhat towards teens, this is worth seeing by any demographic. The script is well written and entertaining from start to finish. This is the best film of its kind since Moonrise Kingdom. This is a real treat for viewers that are going to mange to discover this one. Although a bit slow at times, the story can keep you involved from start to finish, and if you enjoy well constructed films with effective directing and a talented cast, then you're sure to enjoy this film. The film is funny, dramatic and heartwarming. The Kings of Summer is a great film, and it manages to be one of those films that raise the bar in independent film. Go into this expecting a film that is brilliantly acted with a fun and entertaining story and you're sure to enjoy it. There are several highpoints in the film, but one that stands out among others is the fact that it captures the struggles of growing perfectly. Give it a shot; it's a film that is definitely worth your time.
Super Reviewer
June 1, 2013
Not since Stand By Me has a "coming of age" story been told so well!
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
½ July 22, 2013
Working part-time at a movie theater in the summers, I come across, let's say, an interesting selection of customers with... interesting opinions. One middle-aged woman openly opined, while looking at the poster for the coming-of-age comedy The Kings of Summer, that she's had enough with movies told from a teenage male perspective. While this same woman had very specific and narrow demands for an acceptable movie, she got me thinking. Why do we get so many coming-of-age movies from a male perspective? Let's forget the easy answer that Hollywood has a lot more male filmmakers than female. There's always that sense of romance with coming-of-age films, a nostalgic look back at a supposedly simpler time that now seems better appreciated. Maybe men are just more prone to romanticizing the past. Or maybe there are really just more men calling the shots with which films get made. Whatever the reason, the woman didn't go see The Kings of Summer, and judging by her attitude, I don't think she missed out.

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
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2013
Teenage friends Joe (Robinson) and Patrick (Basso) are fed up of living under the rule of their protective parents. One night, Joe and a strange kid called Biaggio (Arias) come upon a clearing in the local woods. Joe decides it would make the perfect location to build a home and convinces Patrick to join him and Biaggio in constructing a cabin. Once the work is completed, the trio run away from their parents and move into their new home. Their new-found free and idyllic life is disrupted, however, when Kelly (Moriarty) comes between Joe and Patrick.
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.
Bradley T. Johnson
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2015
This movie drowns itself in annoying quirkiness. The leads are talented, but the film is a bland coming-of-age tale that is nowhere near as poignant or fun as the similar The Way Way Back. Catch that instead and leave this trying to hard to be hipster and cool movie on the backburner. Rating: 43
Super Reviewer
March 4, 2013
Everyone thinks their parents are crazy, but in the case of Joe, Patrick, & Biaggio, their parents really are nuts. Looking to escape the insanity of their every day lives, the boys decide one summer to build a cabin in the woods, where they can live off the land like men. Nick Robinson stars as Joe, and gives a performance that is out of this world. In a film that stars three kids in the woods, it would be very easy for things to turn stupid very quickly, but as the leader of the pack, Joe not only keeps the group together, but keeps the story together. No matter what this young man does over the course of his career, he will have a hard time duplicating what was easily a career defining performance. Robinson is paired with Disney star Moises Arias, who until now I thought was just this weird little guy they used to guest in their shows. Arias plays Biaggio, easily one of the funniest characters I've seen in a very long time, some of the things that come out of his mouth are just fall on the floor funny. As the kids enjoy their time in the woods, their parents really start to show their crazy, as they go on a hunt for the lost boys. The characters were all unique in their own way, but Joe's father, played by Nick Offerman, was far and away the best, leading the parents the same way, his son lead the boys. From gigantic wontons to turtles on kites, The Kings of Summer is an extremely enjoyable film and the rare instance of a film that I wish was longer. I truly loved every second of this smart coming of age comedy, for it's uniqueness and young exciting cast. Blending dramatic and comedic elements, The Kings of Summer is that perfect mix that takes you from laughter to tears and back again. For that, this film is an easy choice for one of our must see movies!
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ January 14, 2014
"I can tell you my love for you will still be strong, after the kings of summer have gone!" Well, it's hard to not think of either that or Kings of Leon, and it's not like there's that much difference, because where Kings of Leon aren't good enough musicians to do all that much justice to their more genuine musical style, Don Henley wasn't a good enough composer in the '80s to do all that much justice to his lyrical abilities. Hey, I like "New York Minute" quite a bit, but don't tell me that the rubber-band bass and slow rendition of "Chopsticks" on a keyboard which is imitating a piano don't make it a little difficult to take the quatrain, "Lying here in the darkness, I hear the sirens wail; somebody going to emergency, somebody's going to jail", as seriously as you probably should. ...Oh yeah, I know, you're also thinking of Thirty Seconds to Mars' "Kings and Queens", as in, "We were the kings and queens of summer", but let's scratch that, not just because, after referencing Kings of Leon, I'm starting to push my limits on references to alternative rock artist, but because that songs been on enough promotional material relatively recently. You know that this review is promotional material, because somebody has to be talking about this film, not necessarily because it's all that good, but because it's simply under-advertised. Hey, you have to give them credit for trying to make this film more attractive by changing the name, because even though "The Kings of Summer" evidently makes you think of some cheesy music, it's certainly cooler than "Toy's House". That's good, because this film itself is pretty cool, although it's hardly short on problems.

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
Super Reviewer
June 5, 2013
Genuinely good humour and personable actors make this a great film. Of particular note is Nick Offerman who is fantastic as the poor beleaguered Frank. That man is not on the screen enough.
Super Reviewer
September 28, 2013
There is perhaps a scarcely more crowded genre than the coming-of-age genre, a fact that especially holds true for indie coming-of-age genres, even those with a quirky sensibility. Some feel redundant, some feel fresh (Perks of Being a Wallpaper), and some surprise. The Kings of Summer is one of those films that surprise. It's off-beat humor is underscored by strong performances, and a message the ultimately works.

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.

4/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
½ September 17, 2013
I simply love good coming-of-age movies - this one premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and deserves attention of everyone who loves independent cinematography. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize, thanks to the refreshing directorial debut of Jordan Vogt-Roberts and addicting screenplay by Chris Galletta (first produced script), supported by real gems of young actors: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moisés Arias.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2013
Very funny, instantly quotable and occasionally moving "coming of age" comedy drama, though it's a lot closer in story and humour (though not tone) to Moonrise Kingdom than to Stand By Me. I found the supporting performances from the likes of Megan Mullally and Mary Lynn Rajskub much more interesting than the three teenage leads though.
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