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The Kings of Summer: Perhaps More of a Prince of a Comedy

A trio rules its own kingdom, pubescent independence from all things grown-up


Everybody remembers the best summer of their lives, maybe even the second best. Beyond that, recollection of a third or fourth best can get a bit hazy.

That's probably for the best; hope, romance and even whimsy can fill in our memory's shortcomings quite nicely when faces and places get a little fuzzy.

And that's pretty much where The Kings of Summer fits it. It's not the best movie about growing up. Heck, it's not even this summer's best--that would be The Way, Way Back. But The Kings of Summer is still pretty swell, even though this time next year, remembering it may be a bit of a challenge.

Warm, reflective and affectionate, this first-time effort from screenwriter Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who cut their collective comedic teeth at Funny or Die and Late Night With David Letterman, is a likable comedy with plenty of familiar tinges.

Fifteen-year-old Joe (Nick Robinson) is stuck in middle-class hell with widower father Frank (the near-perfect Nick Offerman from Parks and Recreation), who is sarcastic to a fault.

When Joe is having an already-awkward phone conversation with the freckle-faced girl of his dreams, Frank promptly grabs the phone.

"Joe will call you back sometime before his hot, new bedtime of 7:30," says Frank as Joe's heart sinks.

Down the street, Joe's best bud, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), is dealing with his own set of ridiculous parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson), so uncool that they're just this side of total morons. Together, the adults' gibberish begins to sound like the "Mwah... Mwah... Mwah" that grownups sound like in Charlie Brown cartoons.

Joe and Patrick can't escape soon enough into a nearby forest, and they go deep enough that the boys are considered lost by law enforcement for the better part of the summer.

The two build (and I use the term loosely) a cabin, using trash from half-finished construction sites: The door comes from an outhouse; the dining room table is a discarded air hockey table; and who needs stairs when a swimming pool slide can link a second story loft to the kitchen? It's not a treehouse or clubhouse, mind you. It's a house house, and it represents the boys' pubescent independence from all things grown-up.

Joe and Patrick are joined in their adventure by Biaggio (Moises Arias), a saucer-eyed tagalong who confuses being gay with the fact that his lungs fill up with fluid when the seasons change--Joe and Patrick set him straight, telling Biaggio that it's more likely he has cystic fibrosis.

The Kings of Summer has some pretty great performances all around, and the story is solid; but, alas, the script is more cheery than funny and occasionally overwritten when it tries to force comedy one-liners through its characters rather than allowing them to be naturally funny.

The Kings of Summer is no Stand By Me or Goonies, and may not even be the king of its own summer, but it's still a summer worth remembering. At least until next summer.

Related Film

The Kings of Summer

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Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Producer: Tyler Davidson, Peter Saraf, John Hodges, Richard Rothfeld and Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, Mary Rajskub, Erin Moriarty, Eugene Cordero, Marc Jackson and Austin Abrams