The bitter conflict between parents and their teenage son/girl can become so infantile that the fathers of these adolescents often act more like boys than bearers of wisdom or worse; they try to incarnate some old vision of aggressive masculinity. This is the basic theme of Jordan Vogt-Roberts' debut feature film, "The Kings of Summer" (2013). It is a "Stand by Me" like affectionate comedy that portrays the last great summer of teenagers, who hadn't realized just how much of their life is about to change and how things will never be this way again. The story's premise has some outlandish situations, but with its absurdist jokes and casual remakes, it might remain compatible with youngsters.
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) is an average 15 year old teenager, who lives with his widowed father, Frank (Nick Offerman). Nick's mother died a while back and his sister, Heather (Alison Brie) moved out to college as soon as the opportunity arose. Joe cannot endure his father's beleaguering sarcasm and his controlling nature. His father even picks off the phone and tells the girl, Joe loves, that he can’t talk now, because he’s grounded and has to go to bed at 7:30. He really wants to get away from Frank's tyrannical rants.
Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is Joe Toy's best friend. He has different problem with his parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson): They are so attentive, and their overbearing enthusiasm might even test the patience of Buddha. There's also a skinny, weird Italian-American guy, Biaggio (Moises Arias), who attaches himself to Joe and Patrick. Joe proposes a plan that they will all leave homes, live in the woods, build their own house, and become men. The three construct a cabin by using throwaway materials and scraps of wood.
The trio swore secrecy on their wood house location (the spot might be couple of miles away from their parents' house), but Joe makes an exception for Kelly (Erin Moriarty). She is Joe's would-be girl friend. While the parents are grief-stricken with the disappearance of their sons, Kelly's visitation ignites spark inside Patrick. Things get complicated in the woods, as the boys' pitch-perfect friendship is put in danger.
One of the essential things in this kind of coming-of-age story is the robust characterization. The tear-jerking and rib-tickling moments in "Stand by Me" are fully realized because of its rich characters. Here, there is no depth in the characters of Joe and Patrick. We can only casual acquaintance rather than a lifelong friendship. May be the actors portraying the characters had a poor chemistry or else the writer (Chris Galletta) might have thought that this is the way contemporary friendships exists. So, to enjoy "Kings of Summer" to the fullest, you need to view it as a likable comic fantasy with a carefree whimsy.
Vogt-Roberts direction and Galletta's script are much more interested in the laughs that can be extracted from characters rather than plot. The story is largely predictable except for Kelly's choice. However, the finale is good, which ends on a silent note of forgiving looks and instant reconciliation. Ross Riege's gorgeous cinematography and the dreamy editing suggest the cluttered mechanism of an unstructured adolescent mind. Nick Robinson and Basso have given heartfelt performances, but the deadpan humor from Arias might remain as one of the wonderfully bizarre performance. Offerman gets our attention with his casually wry remarks.
"Kings of Summer" should be lauded for not just portraying cheesy young romance (the matters turn a bit grimmer, without wrecking the viewer's mood), although there are some credibility issues. This incoherent, genial crowd-pleaser might really appeal to the alienated teen in all of us.
Kings of Summer -- IMDb
Rated R for language and some teen drinking