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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Kings of Summer Movie Review

Set in the suburbs of Ohio, "The Kings of Summer" is a coming-of-age story that plays like the love child of "Stand by Me" and "Moonrise Kingdom". It is sweet and funny and weird, much like adolescent males themselves. In this case, two teenage guy friends have had enough of their nagging parents and since school's out for summer, they decide to build a home of their own in the woods.

Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) pull off the impossible: a well-constructed, self-sufficient house where their parents can't find them, and bring along a miniscule outcast named Biaggio (Moises Arias), because they're afraid of what he'll do if they turn him away. (He appears like a crazed ninja at one point, wielding a blade). The project is a way for them to feel like men, Joe points out, and regain their independence. It is also a case of missing runaways, which can't be too fun for their families.

"The Kings of Summer" feels like a fantasy, but one with enough truth to keep it grounded. Joe misses his mother and is pining after a girl (Erin Moriarty) who doesn't seem to share his feelings. Patrick is more the strong, silent type, and they get along like real pals, minus a major hiccup. Biaggio is just there for comic relief - he doesn't identify as any gender, he says things like "I cry, but I can't read" and he likes to get his dance on. But they are out in the middle of nowhere, and they sure can't hunt. There are real issues like snakes and heartbreak for them to deal with, but this is not a true-to-life affair, which conjures up some Wes Anderson-style quirkiness.

This is the first feature film for writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who both have a shiny future if they keep it up. They are aided by well-cast actors, with the standout being Nick Robinson. He displays a wide range of emotions and big-screen charm, while always seeming like someone who could sit behind you in math class. Nick Offerman, who plays his dad, has some of the best lines in the movie, which I won't spoil here. Of course these kids don't realize their families aren't half bad and they just really love them, but nobody sees their family as anything other than irritating at the age of 15. Filled with heart and humor, "The Kings of Summer" is an indie delight amid the ambush of summer blockbusters.

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