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Movie Review: The Kings Of Summer
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Kings of Summer PosterThe Kings of Summer
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenwriter: Chris Galletta
Cast: Nick Robinson, Moisés Arias, Gabriel Basso, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally
Paramount Pictures
Rated R | 93 Minutes
Release Date: June 21, 2013

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, The Kings of Summer stars Nick Robinson as Joe Toy, a high school freshman on the verge of adolescence who finds himself increasingly frustrated by his father Frank’s (Nick Offerman) attempts to manage his life.

Declaring his freedom once and for all, he escapes to a clearing in the woods with his best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and a strange kid named Biaggio (Moisés Arias). Joe announces that they’re going to build a house there, free from their overbearing parents. Once their makeshift dwelling is finished, the three young men find themselves masters of their own destiny, alone in the woods.

Written by Chris Galletta, Kings of Summer is a clever and endearing mash-up of films like Stand By Me, My Own Private Idaho, and Superbad, with a dash of Napoleon Dynamite. It’s hard to describe the movie without making it sound like every other coming-of-age film you’ve ever seen, but Galletta’s script is injected with authenticity – real emotions and honest motivations – and big laughs.

The witty dialogue is delivered by a stellar cast who are turn in great performances. Nick Offerman, famous for playing the mustachioed Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, plays Joe’s stern, comically bitter widower dad Frank whose loneliness has transformed him into a miserable bastard.

Patrick’s parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson), on the other hand, are a little too enthusiastic about actively participating in their son’s life. Exceedingly uncool and aggressively overprotective, Patrick’s parents are driving him insane, forcing him to agree to Joe’s harebrained scheme to build a home in the wilderness.

There there’s Biaggio. Moisés Arias is best known for playing Rico on Hannah Montana, but here he’s this bizarre, machete-wielding kid in dress shorts who feels like he walked out of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. He’s the McLovin to Joe and Patrick, who have been exclusive best friends for years. Their friendship, however, is threatened when Joe’s secret crush Kelly (Erin Moriarty) falls for Patrick instead.

Kings of Summer Duo

With exquisite cinematography by Ross Riege and a soundtrack featuring Youth Lagoon and original music by Ryan Miller (Safety Not Guaranteed), Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film is a sweet, slightly off-kilter coming-of-age story for the art house crowd.

Mini-Rant: I’ve come to dread “Summer Movie Season” and the never-ending gauntlet of empty, big-budget blockbusters it brings. I don’t know if this year’s crop of special effects showcases have been especially underwhelming or if I’m just jaded about the direction the film movie industry is going in, but I’m burned out. I’m tired of superhero movies and I’m exhausted by the idea of remakes, reboots, and countless sequels.

I grew up loving blockbusters like Jaws, Star Wars, Alien, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Hell, I grew up in the late ’90s obsessing over movies like Independence Day and Stargate, but after a summer filled with derivative, computer-generated fast food (Iron Man 3, Oblivion, After Earth, World War Z) I just can’t take it anymore. Even the decent summer movies (Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel) are less interesting to me because it’s all still cinematic junk food – just easier to swallow, I guess.

That’s why a film like The Kings of Summer is so important – and why it should be shown on 3,000 screens instead of 65. It is a light in the crushing darkness that is the future of the movies. I’m not saying it’s art on the level of Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, or Stanley Kubrick, but it is a film that cares more about characters than explosions, more about story and emotion than “Hey, look at all of these pretty pixels we made in the computer!”

The Kings of Summer is a movie filled with spirit – with life – a warm and affectionate drama-comedy that, along with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s The Way, Way Back and James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now, is the perfect alternative programming to 20-screen cineplexes all showing the same kind of movie: big, dumb, loud shock-and-awe commercials disguised as films.

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