While it may not be a perfect movie, "The Kings of Summer" may go down as a quintessential coming of age film. It's a bit of Superbad, a bit of Stand By Me, and, most importantly, a bit of originality. It manages to feel new while still feeling like a warm, familiar classic. It is the first feature film of both writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Both men turn what could easily be a cheesy rehash into something fresh, funny, and surprisingly honest.
I don't know where they found the three main actors, Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias, but they are fantastic discoveries. They truly carry this film. At first glance, Nick Robinson's Joe comes across as the timid outcast archetype that seems so prevalent in teen movies, but breaks past that and delivers a raw, honest, and somewhat dangerous performance. Gabriel Basso's Patrick, the product of two well-meaning, but completely overbearing and completely ridiculous parents, plays off of Robinson well. You actually believe they're friends. The joke, the have fun, the help each other, they get into fights, but in the end, they really do care about each other. But the biggest gem here is Moises Arias's Biaggio, who just may be my favorite lovable weirdo since McLovin. There's something so sweet yet so completely off-kilter about him. Always unpredictable and consistently hilarious, almost everything that comes out of his mouth is gold - "I met a dog the other day who taught me how to die." I absolutely loved his character and look forward to seeing some big things out of him, out of all the kids really.
The cast is rounded out by some fantastic comedic actors including Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson, Alison Brie, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, and, most importantly, NIck Offerman delivering a fantastic performance as Joe's widowed father. I know I've been using this word a lot, but it really is just an honest portrayal of a guy that does care about his family, but just can't seem to get control of his own life, constantly pushing others away. Oh, and of course, it is Nick Offerman, so it's also very funny.
I think my biggest problems with the film may stem a bit from the writer and director being new at this. Maybe a few characters, including the main love interest of Kelly, seem a bit underwritten, and the dialogue can be clunky at times. There's a few points where the film drags a bit too long. Roberts seems more interested in just trying to shoot what looks cool without focusing on moving the story along (the man sure loves slow motion and wildlife). But, when a film like this accomplishes as much as it does, you can look past the little flaws. This will be a film that teens will adore, and let them. But it's not just for them. Really, anybody can sit down and enjoy this movie. Most people should be able to relate to at least some of it. I'm just glad movies like this are still being made.