Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts makes a wonderful, fun-filled splash with his coming-of-age movie that premiered to great accolades at the Sundance 2013 film festival. Originally titled “Toy’s House, ” it was renamed to “The Kings of Summer” before the summer movie season kicks off. Despite the change in titles it’s a movie that will leave you refreshed on a hot summer’s night and filled with constant chuckles that illuminate like fireflies at dusk.
“The Kings of Summer” has been compared to other coming-of-age classics like “Stand By Me” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” It captures a wonderful balance of comedy and teenage angst as Joe (Nick Robinson) deals with the death of his mother, a sister who has moved out and a father who has forgotten how to listen. Robinson does a superb job holding his own with great comedic timing against Nick Offerman who plays his irascible father. Gabriel Basso, best known for his role in “Super 8” and “The Big C” (as Linney’s son) plays Joe’s jock buddy Patrick with just the right amount of brawn. Moises Arias fluidly fills the trio in the role as the strange-but-golden friend Biaggio.
The story unfolds at the height of frustration as both Joe and Patrick deal with their out-of-touch parents. Joe schemes for a way out of his pit of despair and decides to escape by building a house out in the wilderness away from the meddling eye of his father. Joe shares his plan with Patrick and Biaggio who end up accompanying him and they set off build their house and enjoy their new found independence.
The idyllic arrangement is everything they hoped it would be from picking berries, sword fights to hunting for food. But their friendship is put to the ultimate test when the girl of Joe’s dreams crosses the threshold. Erin Moriarty, who has the essence of a young Alysso Milano, is the rose and the thorn that comes between the two best friends. But will her presence destroy their bond?
What would a coming of age movie be without the parents? Nick Offerman (Frank Toy) as Joe’s out-of-touch dad , masks his own emotions of the death of his wife by being extra tough on his son. His wisecracks don’t play well with Joe but they do for the audience. And Megan Mullully (Offerman’s real life spouse) is simply hilarious as the outrageously goofy and simple-minded mom to Patrick. It’s enough to drive him crazy with a get-me-outta-here skin rash.
The someone unnecessary profanity is what gives this otherwise family-friendly movie an “R” rating. If you and your teens can deal with that, I say put this movie at the top of your summer movie list to kick off the season.
“The Kings of Summer” opens May 31, 2013.