THE KINGS OF SUMMER Movie Review
Just the other day, I was reading an article about After Earth and one of the comments struck a chord with me. Previous generations’ had kids in movies going off on their own adventures like in The Goonies and Stand By Me, but lately the trend has been to include helicopter parents – like having Will Smith as the watchful father throughout Jaden’s earthbound mission, for example. And it’s true; kids these days are constantly monitored and watched. We even have wifi-connected teddy bears that will text parents when their kids’ hug it! And maybe it’s because of all this that I found The Kings of Summer so refreshing.
The Kings of Summer follows a close-knit group of 3 teens the summer after freshman year. They’re awkward, not popular, and still very much trying to find themselves. Joe suffers from a cold, single father while Patrick has to deal with parents that are just too loving and always intruding in his life. Biaggo is a mystery, but even if his home life is stable his school friendships (or lack thereof) is cause for concern. School’s out and these 3 boys decide to take to the woods and become men, living off the land and disconnecting from everyone and everything else.
It’s through their isolation that we learn what they think manhood really is. It’s not bar mitzvahs or first beers; it’s creating something with your own hands and answering to no one else. Opening with a jam session on a forest enclosed drum session, you can sense their freedom and ease. These are the lazy days of summer at their best, and these boys don’t give up on them easily despite a citywide, then countywide search for them.
The film would not be such a joy without the strength of the young actors at its core. While the work of familiar faces of Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Alison Brie is great, the boys truly shine when they’re together. Nick Robinson is fantastic as Joe Toy. His multi-layered performance shows how hard it can be to be a 14-year-old boy with a crush – he’s vulnerable, stubborn, cocky, sensitive, and confused all at once to great effect. However, it just might be Moises Arias as Biaggio that’s the breakout star. He gets the biggest laughs of the movie, and while the character is ridiculous it never goes too far to be completely unbelievable. He’s just a strange boy looking for some friends.
The Kings of Summer is a fantastic coming-of-age tale that seems from another era. If it weren’t for the cell phone usage, I wouldn’t think it was set in the present day. The story of these boys, their friendship, and their quest for manhood is timeless.