Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer
Starring:
Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Marc Evan Jackson, Marc Evan Jackson, Megan Mullally, Frank Toy, and Moises Arias


Rated: R for language and some teen drinking.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: May 31, 2013 Released by: CBS Films

Formerly entitled Toy's House, a quasi-absurd coming-of-age servo-comedy is a small-scaled picturesque early summer moviegoing treat. Though one that theatrically will probably fall by the wayside of the studio bombast that usually turn out to be the kings of the cineplex.

The Kings of Summer doesn't feel like a rip-off of other winning endeavors from the recent Super 8 all the way back to a darker Stand By Me. Jordan Vogt-Roberts' slice of Americana, lushly shot works around the close (convincing as well as moving) friendship of Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) and Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso).

Joe and Patrick find it right time to get away from their off-their-rockers parents, including the pressingly attentive Keenans (a wildly straight-faced Marc Evan Jackson and Megan Mullally) as well as smugly insecure widower Frank Toy, a scene-stealing cynically gruff Nick Offerman (known from TV's Parks and Recreation). Especially in a scene when he's serenaded by the quirky boyfriend of his daughter (Alison Brie of AMC's original series Mad Men).

The story (believable in its own universe mostly likely for teens like Wes Anderson's similarly poignant and idiosyncratic Moonrise Kingdom) is set in motion after Joe and his new outre pal Biaggio (a rubber-faced, unblinking Moises Arias perhaps channeling some kind of Napoleon Dynamite vibe) find a charming rustic clearing en route from a little fun in the woods. Joe (a little tired of Monopoly with Dad and his new girlfriend) gets it in his head that he wants to live their and start construction.

Patrick gets drawn into the scheme as supplies are procured as necessary. After completion they quickly move in despite their families assume that they've run away. The tale has an interesting detour in the form of his infatuation, Kelly (Erin Moriarty) to visit and perhaps sweeten the place up a bit.

The filmmaking and cast are definitely up to the task of making something witty, heartfelt, and nostalgic. The former comes into play as the trio develops a sense of independence wondering about how Joe and the very amusing Biaggio have gotten all that chicken for their meals. The dialogue always feels real and not manufactured or contrived with a strong feeling for roughing and being out in nature that Huck Finn (like the very engaging "Mud") and Henry David Thoreau would definitely enjoy.

Hardly overstaying its welcome but rather measured in its own right, The Kings of Summer lives up to its title in a pastoral glory that hits strong, emotional notes of childhood, not out of touch with the adults as many scenes will strike familiar farcical, if finely wrought chords of adolescent tumult. With Robinson and Basso leading the way it stands with flavorful, wacky integrity through a venomous bite and romantic heartache.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Kings of Summer        B+                     B+ 

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