The coming-of-age film can easily be sweet and funny, but it's a lot more difficult to touch the hearts of audiences. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and writer Chris Galletta clearly understand how these features operate. There are countless coming-of-age tales that have been released in the world of cinema over the past few years. The majority of them simply aren't able to break away from the clichés in order to deliver something truly genuine that will touch our hearts. However, a few of them have proven to be successful, such as Perks of Being a Wallflower. When these movies are made correctly, they can be some of the most heartfelt motion pictures on the silver screen. The Kings of Summer opened with rave reviews from Sundance Film Festival. While it won't rank amongst the best coming-of-age flicks out there, it still comes with an easy recommendation.
Life as a teenager can be difficult. Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso), and Biaggio (Moises Arias) are feeling trapped in their own skin. Joe's father is incredibly controlling and angry, while Patrick's parents smother him with far too much affection. Biaggio is simply along for the ride, as he wants to follow his new friends. They decide to run away from home and make a house in the woods for the summer. They agree to hunt for their own food and not return to the lives with their families. Even a group of friends can develop to become family.
While this story concept is familiar, screenwriter Chris Galletta isn't looking to feed clichés. In fact, he retreated back to his hometown in order to gain inspiration for the screenplay. The Kings of Summer is a combination between Galletta's teenage years and his fantasies. We've all been teenagers at one point in our lives, which makes these characters instantly relatable. Each of the three roles are incredibly different, but we've all met teenagers like these. It doesn't take very much time for the audience to connect with Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio. Each of them are believable, which is supported by the writer's ability to write dialogue for younger male roles. Once they run away, we're introduced to escapism from their mundane routine. This getaway is something teenagers have thought about at one time or another. The bonds between the trio continue to strengthen, but they will encounter events that will test their friendship. Since The Kings of Summer has a powerful theme of family, it's only appropriate that a close friendship would be conveyed in a similar fashion on the big screen. This picture stresses the importance of appreciating the support system and being there for others.
Since this coming-of-age tale has a heavy focus on its comedic aspects, it should be funny. There are quite a few gags that had me laughing out loud, but other jokes fall flat. The majority of the successful humor comes from Joe's father, Frank Toy (Nick Offerman). His sarcasm and reactions to Joe's disappearance become quite hysterical. Not to say that there isn't any worthwhile humor occurring in the woods, especially since Biaggio delivers some decent laughs. Biaggio is a misunderstood teenager who is ignored by almost everybody around him. Since Joe and Patrick decide to let him in on their runaway idea, he begins to open up. A lot of his reactions and comments are rather funny, which works well with the dramatic aspects. Arguments ultimately begin to arise within this group of friends, which allows them to learn serious life lessons about friendship and family. These more emotional sequences work slightly better than its comedic counterparts, since The Kings of Summer most certainly has a soft side. There's a fine line between being heartfelt and delivering melodramatic mushiness, but this film fortunately lands on the more genuine side. This picture had me entirely invested in its story and the characters within it.
Most of this coming-of-age film is incredibly authentic, although the third act takes a slight back-step. It begins to take itself too seriously, as it eliminates all of the humor we've seen previously. This slightly disturbs the tone that was created throughout the remainder of the picture's running time. The ending feels like it was tacked on in order to have a defined ending, rather than spending the time to articulate an appropriate finale. Regardless, audiences will still find themselves with a smile after the credits are done rolling. This is a mostly genuine motion picture that always has its heart in the right place, even when it slightly falters. Even with its issues, this film boasts a stronger screenplay than most motion pictures that are attempting to obtain the same tone and audience response.
The Kings of Summer primarily takes place in the woods with the trio of friends. Therefore, the majority of the picture rests on the backs of these young actors. Fortunately, they all succeed in delivering worthwhile performances. Nick Robinson is entirely convincing as Joe Toy. He's an average teenage boy who is sick of living under the rules that his father has created for him. He handles the more emotional scenes rather well. The same can be said about Gabriel Basso, who plays Patrick Keenan. The friendship between these two is utterly believable, even when chaos begins to ensue. Moises Arias delivers the laughs in the role of Biaggio. He aids in making this character unpredictable and slightly mysterious, which allows for the character to grow a lot in the minds of the viewers. Nick Offerman is hilarious as Joe's father, Frank. His delivery hits every desirable mark. There isn't any disappointment to be found in this cast.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has incorporated an appropriate atmosphere to the picture. The colors of summer are greatly utilized throughout the film's color palette. The screen is filled with bright colors that look wonderful throughout the scenes in the woods. Vogt-Roberts places a lot of focus on the animals and insects that inhabit the woods. Before the boys' friendship is tested, the audience is treated to a couple montages to indie-rock music. While this could detract from a film, it actually adds to the desired tone. The audio is equally as important as the images seen on the screen, although they're a lot more subtle. The surround speakers are used to their full potential, as it puts the audience in the middle of the woods with these characters. There are numerous audiovisual techniques that have been utilized in order to enhance the moviegoing experience.
Even though it isn't perfect, The Kings of Summer is a coming-of-age film with a substantial amount of heart. This motion picture will relate to teenagers and adults around the world, as it touches upon the themes of the importance of family and friendship. A lot of the jokes are funny and the majority of the dramatic elements are authentic. The third act has an awkward shift in tone, but that doesn't stop this from being an entirely enjoyable theatrical experience. The Kings of Summer is worth seeing, regardless of your age. Recommended.