Why live when you can rule? The freshest, Sundance-entry coming-of-age “The Kings of Summer” by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and writer Chris Galletta is kinda reminding me of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” or Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me”, except that we are having three teenage boys looking for freedom. It was a sweet escape, both for them and for the viewers, and however shallow and superficial the plan turns out to be, it’s still a journey of fun to get through for one and a half hour of duration.
It is all begin when Joe (Nick Robinson), a fifteen year old boy, feels so irritated by his dad, Frank (Nick Offerman). So when he finds a nice place in the wood, he decides to build a house there and lives by his own—away from his parents. He invites Patrick (Gabriel Basso)—his best friend—and Biaggio (Moises Arias), and they build a nice house there. They feed and live by themselves, while their parents think that they are missing. Things got more complicated when Joe also invites Kelly (Erin Moriarty), his crush at school, who brings rivalry between him and Frank.
|Meet the parents: Frank (Nick Offerman), Mrs. Keenan (Megan Mullally), and Mr. Keenan (Marc Evan Jackson)|
First I have to appreciate the three boys’ success in building such a pretty habitable house in the woods by themselves. They must have a good skill of carpentry, I guess. But who cares? The film brings you back to the old memories when you used to get frustrated by your parents and all—the old time when you feel like family is not a perfect place to spend time with, so you would rather hang around with your friends doing craps and stuffs. “The Kings of Summer” is a boy version of that story. “The Kings of Summer” is a pretty close depiction of how teenagers are really looking forward to get out of their adolescence, toward adultery, without being prepared for it. Of course this is not a solid platform to build a convincing story for the whole duration, but—thanks to the technical aspects—“The Kings of Summer” still manages to be an enjoyable film.
The film opens with a scene of Joe and Patrick playing a kind of percussion music using sticks, while Biaggio is dancing strangely between them. I mean, even the first scene has represented how “emotionally unstable” these three kids are (LOL). But it is surprising is that the bitter parents-children relationship only stays at the background, and instead of making too much dramas on that, the story revolves more to the comical side of the journey and the relationship among Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio. Writers usually love drama like this—at least to make the targeted viewers able to absorb something significant from the story rather than only having fun with it. And when finally comes the puppy love, we are moved way further from the main reason of their escape to the woods. I suddenly came to realize that I feel like the story was too blend-in and mixed, but I’d rather not feeling disturbed by it.
|These boys built a house in the woods and become friends.|
Jordan Vogt-Roberts polished the story delicately and passionately. He knows that the film has to be dynamic, at least as dynamic as the emotional fire within the three boys, so he inserts musics to the film. Just like the formula of Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers”—which also carries a bit similar theme—we’ll find that songs are everywhere around the film. The shots wildly yet beautifully capture the coming-of-age side of the three characters, sometimes even with slow-motion. These technical features successfully develop the simple story into a more enjoyable package of entertainment for viewers. A little bit style over substance, perhaps, but it is okay.
I love the characters, especially Biaggio by Moises Arias. You know what they said: you’ll always have that awkward, unique friend in the group. Biaggio is that friend. Most of the laughs (or at least smiles) come from him. Lucky that his character is developed in balance compared to the other two boys. Joe and Patrick, by Nick Robinson and Gabriel Basso, are the most dominant characters, and they could manage their spotlights well. I think there are no problems with the three leading roles, except that the other supporting roles like their parents (especially Joe’s and Patrick’s parents) and relatives are not deeply dug. They are where the story starts, but they are becoming less important near the ending. This is somewhat funny; it feels like the film begins with the parents-children relationship but ends with a totally different theme.
|Biaggio (Moises Arias) is the most interesting character among the three.|
So, again, why live when you can rule? There is no answer for that, just like there is no significant lesson you can learn from “The Kings of Summer”. It’s an enjoyable film with the spirit of adolescence. A heart-warming and comical presentation of three boys searching for true identity, friendships, and love—all of a sudden. A refreshing drama-comedy for your spare time that will blow you the wind of old teenage memories right to your face.
▲ Fresh presentation, interesting characterizations
▼ Unconvincing story to develop, more like a forgettable entertainment
THE KINGS OF SUMMER | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2013 RATING Rated R for language and some teen drinking RUNTIME 95 min GENRE Drama, Comedy CAST Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Erin Moriarty WRITER Chris Galletta DIRECTOR Jordan Vogt-Roberts MORE INFO