By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
The Kings of Summer (CBS Films)
Rated R for language and some teen drinking.
Starring Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Thomas Middleditch, Erin Moriarty, Angela Trimbur, Kumail Nanjiani, Austin Abrams, Craig Cackowski, Lili Reinhart.
Written by Chris Galletta.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
Being a parent of teenagers isn't easy, but it's certainly not as hard as being a teenager (if memory serves). I remember times when I was about 14 years old, and wished I could never see my parents again. Being a parent now, there are times when I wish my teenagers would just disappear for a few months until they could return as adults, or at least something that doesn't resemble a being from an alien planet. Then I feel really guilty about ever thinking that, because teens are pretty awesome if you consider that they are able to deal with all the hormones, feelings about sex, and their innate ability to get past certain levels of video games that I find impossible. I'm lucky, too. I was raised by two parents who were more or less sane, didn't beat me (even though I behaved as though they MIGHT beat me if they ever found out about the really bad stuff I did). Currently, I'm in the process of raising several teenagers with a devoted wife by my side who keeps my tendency to want to pummel them in check. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for single parents who have to deal with all the problems of teenagers, especially those single parents who have lost a spouse due to an untimely death. The Kings of Summer is a movie about one such teen and all the anger, resentment and sadness of being raised by a dad who is still dealing with his own complicated feelings.
Nick Robinson stars as Joe, a troubled boy whose father Frank (Nick Offerman) is cold, sarcastic, distant and often mentally abusive due to the death of his wife. Joe's older sister Heather (Alison Brie) has escaped to college and a place of her own, leaving Joe and his dad alone in a home where the drudgery of life without mom constantly grinds on their nerves. Joe's friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) has his own set of problems, with parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) who seem to control every part of his life, causing him to break out in hives due to the stress.
Joe and Patrick decide they've had enough and make plans to run away into a remote part of the woods where they will gather enough building materials to construct their own home, and leave their pitiful existence behind. Joe and Patrick begin their adventure, and soon discover that they have acquired a third and very odd member of their group named Biaggio (Moises Arias). Biaggio is helpful in gathering the building materials, and is also very astute at offering very strange observations about life. Even with his odd traits, Joe and Patrick accept Biaggio, if only for entertainment purposes.
As the boys complete their home in the woods, their parents begin to worry and contact police, who treat the situation as they would any runaway scenario.
As the boys bond in the forest, Joe's father begins to re-examine his attitude, while Patrick's parents get even weirder than they were before.
As time passes, the boys invite other people to their hideout, including the beautiful Kelly (Erin Moriarty), a girl Joe has a crush on. Unfortunately, Kelly falls for Patrick, and the bond between wilderness brothers is threatened.
Soon enough, the secret hideout is discovered by the adults, and Joe must perform an act of heroism to save Kelly, his father, Patrick and Biaggio.
The Kings of Summer is perhaps one of the best films of the summer. There's enough drama inside the relationship between Joe and his dad to make audiences cry. At the same time, Nick Offerman's gift for sarcasm is enough to keep people laughing until their sides hurt. Offerman's performance is crazy enough, yet understated enough to make you like his character more and more as the movie progresses. I hope Offerman gets a little award consideration at the end of the year.
The Kings of Summer has been tagged as “coming of age” movie about teenagers, but I think that's a little misleading. Everyone in the movie grows up a little, including the adults. Go and see The Kings of Summer before the summer ends. You might find a sanctuary you didn't expect.