The Kings of Summer (2013) Review

Never grow up.
Never grow up.

It’s not often that a movie can be described with one word. But if you had to sum up Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts new film The Kings of Summer, “fantastic” would just about cover it.

Fed up with everything from annoying parents to teenage responsibility, three young high school friends (Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio) decide to leave home and build their own house in the woods. What follows next is a hilarious and heartfelt coming of age tale that sublimely mixes ingenuity, life lessons, betrayal, and finding out what friendship is really all about.

Every single role in this film seems to have been perfectly cast. Therefore, choosing a standout performance almost seems unfair because the entire ensemble comes together so brilliantly. Some of the more showcased roles include the father/son relationship between Frank (Nick Offerman) and Joe (Nick Robinson). This is undoubtedly where the story gets its driving force. Along the way it manages to uncover some universal truths about why communication in close quarters is both frustrating, but ultimately necessary. Also, be on the lookout for Moises Arias as the young and quirky Biaggio. He flawlessly steals every scene he’s in, and it’s a safe bet that his own spinoff is already being discussed over at CBS Films.

Some serious praise needs to be heaped on writer Chris Galletta and Director Vogt-Roberts, for turning what could have been an ordinary coming of age tale into something truly spectacular. Alongside the storytelling, the cinematography handled expertly here by Ross Riege, is often both subtle and strikingly beautiful all at once. Filmed on location in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, we are treated to both quiet, small town America and gorgeous natural landscapes. Don’t be surprised if you wind up wanting to take a vacation there over the summer holidays.

The Kings of Summer is a film that marvelously captures what it’s like to be young and adventurous, but then quickly reminds us that the perks of being an adult might not be so bad. Harsher critics might say that they want a little bit more back story, and that the action starts fairly quickly. But the characters here are immediately likeable, and the story is easy to follow. Think of it as a high school party where somebody has just snuck in a keg. If you don’t ask to many annoying questions and just go with the flow, you’ll be abundantly rewarded.

What’s most refreshing about the film is that is doesn’t end with a (heavy handed) moral compass. It’s no secret that most people learn a lot about who they are in their teenage years. But while most of it may seem immediately important at the time, looking back on it we often wonder what all the fuss was about.

This is the kind of small movie that doesn’t come along very often, but when it does, it deserves a lot more publicity than it will likely receive. The Kings of Summer is funnier than expected, surprising in its beauty, and just artistic enough to make us appreciate what a good movie feels like. Fantastic.