STARRING: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Allison Brie, Erin Moriarty.
WRITTEN BY: Chris Galletta
DIRECTED BY: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
I love it when indie films fly into the summer, and they are virtually under the radar. A 7.4 on IMDB, and a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. Good scores, but not great scores. I was expecting a good, not great film, and I got my favorite film of the year, so far, in return. There have been only a handful of films that I believe I’ve given A’s to this year, Warm Bodies, This Is The End, and Behind The Candelabra are the only 2013 releases to hit that mark so far. The Kings Of Summer is joining them.
Studios don’t make movies like this. Joe (Nick Robinson) is a troubled youth who still misses his mom, who died before the film begins. He’s at constant odds with his father (Nick Offerman), who doesn’t seem to understand Joe. Joe acts out, fights back, and generally rebels against his father. It doesn’t help that Joe’s sister (Alison Brie) is old enough that she no longer lives at home. Joe’s best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso) also hates his parents so much that it actually gives him hives. One night, after fleeing from a party, Joe stumbles upon a clearing in the middle of the woods, which he dreams of calling home. So he enlists the help of Patrick, and the very odd Biaggio (Moises Arias) to help him build a house in the middle of nowhere. This actually turns out a lot better than you would think, and soon enough, the three boys have run away from home to live in their new place, leaving their parents (including Megan Mullally) behind trying to find them. Obviously the cops in this area don’t go in the woods, cause they never seem to launch a real search party.
In the woods, the boys become men. They try to hunt, they try to live off the land, and they try and not just walk across the street to the Boston Market that is fairly close to their new homestead. Joe misses his high school crush, Kelly (Erin Moriarty), and invites her to their new house. This ultimately is the beginning of the end, as two best friends realize the only thing that can come between them is a girl, and she’s naive enough to believe that she’s not important enough to affect that kind of change.
The three boys are pretty great in their roles, perfectly cast in a way that will remind you of the gang from Stand By Me or The Sandlot. They feel like real kids, not precocious actors. The film’s strongest performance comes from Offerman, who is hilarious when he needs to be, and deeply affecting when you least expect it. As he comes to terms with where his parenting has led to this, you can see a broken man who is lost without his wife, and is just trying to do the best he knows how. He starts off a father who doesn’t understand his son, but finishes the film as a father who is proud of who his son has become, largely on his own. If the film was getting more notice, I would say Offerman might be an awards contender, but he’ll just be forgotten by the end of the year.
For something completely different and memorable this summer, check out this film. There are no zombies or superheroes. Hundreds of million of dollars wasn’t spent on special effects, and the biggest star in this film is a supporting cast member on an NBC show everyone keeps telling you to watch, and you keep meaning to check out. Don’t allow this film to get lost in your Netflix queue, see it in theatres.
FINAL GRADE: A