THE KINGS OF SUMMER follows three teenage boys (Robinson, Basso and Arias) as they head into the wilderness with a plan to build a house and live off the land.
Perched in a nice, bittersweet spot between sentimental and zany, The Kings of Summer
wonderfully captures a fantasy of youth and free time--it could only happen in a slightly off-reality la-la land, but that turns out to be a pleasant place to visit. 15-year-old Joe (Nick Robinson) determines to occupy a ramshackle collection of building materials (let's call the resulting mess a cabin) set in the middle of the woods; his buddy Patrick (Gabriel Basso) comes along for the ride during the summer break. Both guys are sick of their parents, even if their troubles are never so bad the movie would lose its daffy undertone. There's a third wheel: Biaggio (Moises Arias), a strange and hilarious kid who just keeps hanging around long enough to be allowed in to the idyll. What follows is a very peculiar mix of styles (gauzy nature photography, boom-boom sitcom-style humor, bittersweet teen-movie angst), but director Jordan Vogt-Roberts keeps these different notes in harmony for most of the film's running time. Add the rock-solid support of comedy wizards like Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Mary Lynn Rajskub, and the movie finds a winning beat. At its best, The Kings of Summer
is like a Young Adult novel about getting away from it all, but with a better soundtrack. --Robert Horton