Kings of Summer is No Moonrise Kingdom
- Friday, May 31, 2013
DVD Release Date: September 24, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: May 31, 2013 (limited release)
Rating: R (language and some teen drinking)
Run Time: 93 min.
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Erin Moriaty, Craig Cacowski, Megan Mullally
As evidenced by the likes of The Goonies, Stand By Me and practically any John Hughes movie, a great coming-of-age story can truly stand the test of time.
And given the mass appeal of last summer’s Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s winning, witty ode to two teenage misfits who retreated to the woods, it’s no surprise that a burgeoning filmmaker would attempt to recreate (or at least borrow from) what’s worked so well before.
Trouble is, The Kings of Summer never quite finds its footing—emotionally, comedically or otherwise. As with Moonrise Kingdom, we’re introduced to a young man who clearly isn’t happy at home. After his mother’s death, Joe (Nick Robinson, TV’s Melissa & Joey) is stuck with a perpetually cranky father (Nick Offerman, who’s basically reprising his character from Parks & Recreation) who even ruins his son’s chances with his big crush, Kelly (Erin Moriarty, TV’s Red Widow). Given the prickly father-son dynamic, it’s clear that Joe wants to escape, but unfortunately, the audience is never given a compelling reason to fully invest in his quest for independence.
For whatever reason, the screenwriters failed to give Joe many likeable qualities. He's rude, disrespectful, selfish and downright bratty to the point of stealing from his own father. It’s bewildering how Joe has any friends at all. But even though he's not part of the popular crowd, the newly minted sophomore isn’t alone. Thanks to his childhood friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso from cable’s The Big C), someone always has Joe’s back.
Like Joe, Patrick has parents who are pretty clueless, and embarrassingly out of touch with their only teenage son. Their idea of doing something crazy is buying a rustic ciabatta loaf instead of their usual bread. With Patrick’s summer prospects already looking pretty uneventful, he’s more than game for an adventure.
Of course, Joe’s idea of summer fun is a little extreme. After deciding he couldn’t possibly live with his father one more day, Joe suggests that he and Patrick leave their respective homes, build a makeshift dwelling in the woods and live off the land like men.
Despite some serious reservations (at one point, he even asks God for a "good omen"), Patrick goes along with the plan. But how will a couple of novices and a weird, last-minute tag-along named Biaggio (Moises Arias, The Secret World of Arrietty) survive in the Great Outdoors? Well, Joe has read a few books on that very subject, naturally.
While the filmmakers were intent on infusing the movie with heavy-handed symbolism on the journey from boyhood to becoming a full-fledged man, The Kings of Summer is simply too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Not only are the leaps of logic in storytelling too numerous to mention here, but the mostly plotless affair (think Napoleon Dynamite minus the oddball charm) lacks any significant stakes.
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