THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a unique coming-of-age comedy about three teenage friends – Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the eccentric and unpredictable Biaggio (Moises Arias) – who, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Free from their parents’ rules, their idyllic summer quickly becomes a test of friendship as each boy learns to appreciate the fact that family – whether it is the one you’re born into or the one you create – is something you can’t run away from.
Perhaps as a teen you dreamed of running away from your overbearing parents for the summer to “live off the land” in a glorified fort house in the middle of the woods. Well, that’s exactly what the two main characters of The Kings of Summer do after being painstakingly frustrated with the living situation at home. Protagonist Joe Toy cannot cope with his miserable, widower father, played perfectly by Nick Offerman. So, he convinces his best friend Patrick Keenan, who cannot deal with his Hallmark cookie-cutter parents, to break ground on a self-made summer “home” in the middle of the woods. Unexpectedly joining the duo is Biaggio, the bizarrely comical third wheel. Imagine Superbad’s McGlovin with a splash of acid – that is Biaggio. His exceedingly odd, offbeat personality provides many laugh out loud moments throughout the movie.
Screenwriter Chris Galletta takes personalities from his own childhood and meshes them into a movie that occasionally plays in the same ballpark as Stand by Me and Moonrise Kingdom. Add the Street Fighter 2 gameplay and you get a feeling of 90’s nostalgia.
While the simplicity of the plot begs for something deeper, it does allow for its dialogue and eccentric moments to shine. The characters played by Offerman and Megan Mullally often steal the show, at times creating gem moments from scenes that do not necessarily further the story. For example, Offerman has a running gag about how the Wonton in his soup is too big to fit in his mouth.
Director Todd Straus-Schulson makes stylistic choices to accentuate the playfulness of the three boys as they explore their freedom in the woods. One thing Galletta and Straus-Schulson are careful about is maintaining its comedic tone throughout. Unlike other comedies that typically lose their humor in the third act, The Kings of Summer remains true to its tone up until the last scene where an old man in a wheelchair rides the elevator with the main characters.
Overall, The Kings of Summer is a light coming of age story that survives on its character actors and quirky dialogue. If you’re a fan of Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation, you’ll want to see Offerman’s hilariously dry performance in this.
I give the Kings of Summer a 7 out of 10
Release Date: May 31