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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Movie Review - The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer (2013)
Starring Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

I had high hopes for this coming of age story after I'd heard promising things following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last year, but despite the majority of critics' positive comments, this reviewer found The Kings of Summer to be one of the worst movies he saw from 2013.  Something about this film rang very false for me with not a single character, situation, or a majority of the dialogue based in any sort of reality or truth.  There's an irreverence here that I never enjoyed.  Perhaps this is one of those indie comedies that you "have to be in the mood to enjoy" (I've talked about this concept before), but both the screenplay by Chris Galletta and direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts were too eccentric to ever be anything other than obnoxious.

Similar in plot to Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom -- a director/screenwriter whom first-timers Galletta and Vogt-Roberts cull a great deal from in both story and tone -- The Kings of Summer tells a tale of two best friends who run away from home following the completion of their freshman year of high school.  Joe (Nick Robinson) can't stand his father (Nick Offerman) and his insistence on butting into all aspects of his life.  Patrick (Gabriel Basso) also has some obnoxiously overbearing parents (with the mother played by Megan Mullally) who have him rolling his eyes at every single thing they say to him.  Fed up with their respective folks, Joe and Patrick decide to build a house in the woods where they will live forever, away from the rules of society (and the rules of their parents).  This strive for independence shifts into one of those typical coming-of-age stories where all parties learn something that helps them become better people.

The problem with that notion is that none of the characters in this movie ever seem "real" enough to make the audience feel any sympathy towards them or have any rooting interest in seeing them succeed.  The parents of both teens, as an example, are so utterly unrealistic that I think I was literally gritting my teeth in frustration any time they spoke.  Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson (who play Patrick's parents) are embodying dumb, completely irrational characters, and Offerman's part is so mind-numbingly dull while also managing to be irritatingly sarcastic.  While the younger actors fare better even they can't overcome the overly simplistic trials and tribulations that are thrown their way in order to produce tension.  I won't even begin to discuss the third teenage member of the clan -- Biaggio (played by Moises Arias) -- who serves no real purpose in the film other than to act weird at every possible moment.

Ultimately, the comedy in The Kings of Summer is never derived from any basis in reality (despite the fact that there is supposed to be a basis in reality) and that makes all of the purported humorous situations feel fake.  Both the screenwriter and director didn't craft a film that felt genuine and, considering how miserably they failed here, I certainly will not be looking forward to their next venture.

The RyMickey Rating:  D-

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