What’s usually missing from the summer movie line-up are movies about the summer. Sure, there’s plenty to love about summer blockbusters, but at the end of the day, it’s that slightly nostalgic feeling which reminds us of our childhood that surprisingly pulls us in. “The Kings of Summer” is a high-spirited and easy to love film and one of the must-see films of this year.
Joe, (Nick Robinson), sick of his father making his life miserable and watching Kelly (Erin Moriarty)—the girl he has a crush on—date another guy, decides to build a house in the middle of the woods and live there (they even put up a mailbox). Not wanting to live there alone and knowing his friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is tired of his parents as well (they apparently give him hives), Joe convinces his friend to join him. Patrick is reluctant at first (and really, who wouldn’t be?) but they get to working on a house by buying a bunch of how-to guides and set off.
Included in their entertaining adventures in the woods is Biaggio (Moises Arias), the off-kilter and slightly strange schoolmate who just kind of happens to find the clearing with Joe after a party one night. Biaggio becomes their friend by accident (and because they initially don’t know what he’s capable of so they keep him around) and the three young men face a month of fun, independence, and youthful shenanigans. Though not the entire summer is fun in the sun. The teens deal with different bumps in the road along the way that test their friendship and their attitudes regarding certain aspects of their lives.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts brings a coming of age story about teen boys, and instead of being full of only teenage angst, it’s also full of humor. Probably one of the funniest movies this year and also boasts a great up and-coming young cast. Moises Arias’s portrayal of Biaggio should earn him some kind of award. Between announcing that he “can read” but “can’t cry” and mistaking cystic fibrosis for being gay, Arias has astounding comedic timing and a lot of his awkwardness makes for great scenes.
Nick Robinson and Gabriel Basso are convincing in their roles and balance each other’s character personalities in a way that’s believable. They both express emotions often without needing words and the silent part of their friendship—and many other subtle and non-verbal aspects of the film—is what makes their interactions resonate.
Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson are delightfully odd in their performances as Patrick’s completely boring and socially awkward parents. Nick Offerman plays the role of Joe’s dad Frank as a miserable middle-aged man who makes everyone around him unhappy because he is. The fact that his son runs away and that they end up coming to a better understanding of each later proves that they needed that time apart.
The story is simple, but what really manages to bring this movie together is the cast’s chemistry with each other and their performances. Yes, “The Kings of Summer” is a coming of age story, but it doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. There are plenty of laughs, more so than a lot of comedies that have come out recently, and effective heartwarming moments. The movie effectually targets different emotions—frustration, misunderstanding, anger, happiness—without being in your face about it.
There’s a message in the film and by the end of it, every character’s experienced a journey and matured in a way that helps them understand themselves and others much better. The journey to that maturity is endearing and fun to watch unfold. The movie is somehow deeply profound and entirely unique in its execution. Vogt-Roberts and first-time writer Chris Galletta really do well in balancing everything in this film. “The Kings of Summer” is a little bit drama, a little bit heartbreak, and a whole lot of fun and surprising (in the best way possible). Its fresh take on growing up will have you feeling for and laughing with the characters. It’s a reminder that summers aren’t just about getting out of school, but about growing up and dealing with life. “The Kings of Summer” is a feel good, well-told film that’ll keep you glued to your seat and chuckling on the way out of the theater. A definite must-see film for 2013.

4star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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