Movie review: 'The Kings of Summer' is simple summer fun

For the News-DemocratJune 6, 2013 

What It's About

The drudgery of middle-class suburbia sparks two teenage boys to rebel and create their own utopia in the middle of a nearby woods. The class weirdo tags along.

With occasional flashes of originality, "The Kings of Summer" is a standard coming-of-age tale that has a mix of sentimental and silly moments. The humor is often character-driven, so it depends if you relate to the relationships screenwriter Chris Galletta, from St. Louis, focuses on here.

The title was originally "Toy's House" when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Referencing both "The Goonies" and "E.T.," this film will mainly appeal to guys of a certain age.

Performances

The best buddies -- Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) -- have a natural screen presence and their euphoria over the back-to-nature scenario is charming.

Moises Arias evokes the biggest laughs as a very odd teenage boy whose survival skills come in handy while living off the land. But his character is merely a caricature, a sitcom sidekick.

The grown-ups, however, stand out as the exasperating parents. Megan Mullally plays Patrick's over-protective ditzy mom while Nick Offerman plays Joe's uptight widower dad. The couple are married in real life, and they are always a delight to watch in whatever they do, even if these characters are not that flattering.

What Works

The joys and frustrations of adolescence resonate with everyone. It's a small indie comedy that is a simple summer vehicle, and sometimes, that's all people want this time of year.

What Doesn't Work

The movie is sometimes too quirky for quirky's sake. Galletta is a former joke writer for "Late Show with David Letterman," and at times, the script seems like a series of one-liners.

Ultimately, the film becomes predictable, and goes off the rails near the end. To worry parents like that is not a joke, and it's not really cool to cause that much angst in a scary real world.

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Erin Moriarty , Mary Lynn Rajskub

Rated: R for language and some teen drinking

Length: 1:33

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