Deviating from the overly common batch of raunchy flicks that reduce adolescent manhood to a mindless quest for drunken nights and sexual fantasies comes a hilarious coming-of-age story that attempts to redeem the sub-genre of “bromantic comedies”. The Kings of Summer (previously known as Toy’s House) is Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ debut feature and can best described as a more intellectual, less vulgar combination of Superbad and Into the Wild. Definitely packed with a ton of darkly comedic jokes on the style of Judd Apatow’s work and a handful of eccentric characters, this film delivers a fresh spin on the much too depicted subject of teenage angst.
Tired of Frank’s (Nick Offerman), his father, controlling attitude developed after his mother’s death, Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) decides to run away from home to live in the woods. He has devised a plan to recruit his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso), whose parents are overprotective health-freaks, in order for them to build a house for themselves and experience nature in the wild like “real men”.
To make things even more peculiar, a strange kid named Biaggio (Moises Arias), who they met at a party, joins them in their adventure and becomes their third musketeer. An array of small colorful vignettes tell their childish feats like trying to hunt wild animals but eventually surrendering for Boston Market’s prepared food, slaying water melons, and simply running through fields ecstatic with absolute freedom. Even if on paper this sounds like common fare, it is absolutely beyond that, this is nothing short of a newly born classic on pair with Stand By Me.
Probably inspired by the style and eccentricities of Wes Anderson’s films, particularly similar in concept to Moonrise Kingdom, the story relies on the brilliant performances by both the adult cast and the young protagonists. Nick Offerman steals the show with his bitter and resentful punch lines that bring sarcasm, or “the poor man’s wit” as it’s called in the film, to a whole new level of bad. Equally unforgettable, even if at times his weirdness is exploited a bit too far for laughs, is Moises Arias as Biaggio. Undoubtedly everyone will remember his disturbing look, mind-bugling dialogue, and out-of-this-world hilarious activities. The leading roles are also portrayed with impeccable honesty by Robinson and Basso. Their friendship and chemistry are palpable on screen even when “the girl” threatens to break them apart
First time feature director Jordan Vogt-Roberts made something very special with this piece. Although thin in plot for the most part, and heavily relying on the quirkiness of his characters, the film works. It provides a sense of wonder that makes one wish to be a boy once again, to have that hopefulness and brainless bravery that comes with young manhood.
There is a certain innocence to it all, as we see this sparsely-bearded kids trying to turn themselves into men while being children at heart. Cleverly, Vogt-Roberts coats the beauty of it with amazingly effective comedy, which doesn’t eliminate the films flaws, but surely makes this for one of the funniest rides one will experience at the movies this year. The Kings of Summer really rule, the best comedy of the year by far.
Final Verdict: Forget the entire Project X, Sex Drive, 21 and Over nonsense, here is the real deal. There are just too many good lines and scenes in this film that is hard to even begin to number them. One thing is for sure, they couldn’t fit them all in the trailer, so be prepared for some really laugh-out-loud moments. Don’t’ miss the gigantic wontons, the surreal camouflage by Biaggio, the ravaging power of a Monopoly game, and many other one-liners you’d be quoting for years to come. Added to this, there is actually an endearing story to which most guys will relate and reminisce of days past. There are some unavoidable clichés and a heavy-handed use of slow motion, but overall this is an unforgettable coming-of-age tale that merits multiple viewings