Joe (Nick Robinson) has found himself in the sole care of his father (Nick Offerman), a man ill- equipped to deal with a teenage son, following the death of his mother. Joe’s best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is blessed with two parents who love him dearly (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson). In fact they love him to the point of smothering him. Joining them on their adventure is Biaggio (Moises Arias), the idiosyncratic third musketeer and supplier of some of the funniest lines in the film. Trying to escape the trials of being a teenager living with seemingly impossible parents, the trio find an idyllic clearing in the local woods build a ramshackle house on it. Joe and Patrick run away from home, and attempt to make a new life of self-sufficiency in their new woodland dwelling. Soon they find their friendship is tested as their idyllic summer gives them a dose of grim reality.
‘The Kings of Summer’ , as many critics have noted, seems to be an unashamedly old fashioned coming-of-age film. The phrase “they don’t make em like this any more” has been bandied around in many reviews, as it fits nicely in with the tradition of films that seemed to die off in the 80’s, films like ‘The Karate Kid’, ‘The Explorers’ and ‘Stand by Me’. However, it could also be the start of a new kind of coming of age film, as it fits nicely into the same category as ‘Mud‘, ‘The Way, Way Back’, ‘Submarine‘ and even to an extent ‘The Perks of being a Wallflower‘, films which tackle some of the peculiarities of growing up in a world filled with technology, about young people trying to escape, often back to the outdoors.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ (whose debut feature this was) depiction of the natural world is stunning, and will have you longing for long, hot summer days when you can walk barefoot on the grass, feel the sun on your skin and listen to the birds in the trees. The forest, and the house the boys’ create very much becomes an extra character in the film, giving them both comfort and challenges along the way.
That’s not to say the real characters are to be dismissed. The boys and their families are very well-written and well-played by the excellent cast. Indeed Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally may well be my current favourite celebrity couple so when you add in Alison Brie as older sister Heather even the supporting cast for The Kings of Summer is a winner.
There are some brilliant comedic moments, coming in particular from Nick Offerman and newcomer Moises Arias as the brilliantly odd Biaggio, meaning as well as being whimsical the film is genuinely very, very funny.
“I don’t think of myself as having a gender”- Biaggio
While it is by no means ground-breaking, covering oft-trod Mark Twain-esque ground, it is extremely charming, warm and funny, traits which shouldn’t be over-looked or under-sold.
Beautifully written, beautifully directed and whimsical to a fault, ‘The Kings of Summer’ provides a welcome glimpse of sunshine until we can get outdoors again.