The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer lives up to its apt title as what is sure to be one of the most rewarding films of this 2013 summer movie season. Just what I ordered: a film with no numbers after the title, no super powers and no earth that needs saving; just true storytelling that anyone watching should be able and willing to identify with. Television director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has found that pitch perfect blend of comedic drama and some of the most organic and refreshing cinematography I’ve laid eyes on in a while. The Kings of Summer is exactly the type of coming of age film it should be, with three impressive young male actors and some great comedians as their parents. This could be the sleeper hit of the summer.

 Joe (Robinson) and Patrick (Basso), for various reasons, want to escape their parents' nagging for the summer, so Joe devises a plan to build their own house in the backwoods of their Ohio town where no one can find them. Along with their new, wildly unpredictable, short and extremely interesting friend Biaggio (Arias), they create the ultimate teenage house, boil their own water and sort of hunt their own food. They feel they have achieved manhood and ignore those nagging feelings that their parents are worried sick and working with authorities to find them.

 It is Into the Wild meets Moonrise Kingdom. The Kings of Summer is poignant and entertaining because of its clever screenplay by Chris Galleta and its spot on casting. Compared to the other summer movies that will flash in our face this season, here we travel to Chagrin Falls, Ohio (near Cleveland) to face our own nostalgic teenage years of rebellion and misunderstanding. The boys think that trapping animals, building four walls and growing facial hair brings them closer to manhood, but we already know what they will soon learn, that it’s recognizing what they left behind that will be their ultimate passage.

 The parents in the film are more like caricatures, or the perception of how these boys see them. Offerman and Mullally do really great supporting work as both the cause and the resolution to the boys’ rebellion. “We must have done something wrong to make them run away”. Our lead character Joe can’t stand the way his father (Offerman) tries to make everyone as miserable as he is, but yet we see Joe treating his friends the same way later in the film, and understand his true fear is turning out like his father. Beautiful scenes of boyhood, reclusive behavior and emotional heartbreak make The Kings of Summer one of the rare summer movies that mean and say something about life.

Final Thought – The ultimate, must see - summer movie

Grade A-

By: Dustin Chase

Dr. Donna Copeland’s


The Kings of Summer is impressive as a film by newcomers Jordan Vogt-Roberts (director) and Chris Galleta (writer).  It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in January, and is being well received by critics.  I found it rather uneven in terms of quality; there are some very funny lines, and the character Biaggio (Moises Arias) is creatively well drawn—a one-of-a-kind character, and Arias is perfect in the role.  There are many scenes, however, that fall rather flat, and are not as clever as they are purported to be.  I think the weakness is mostly in scenes where there is little drama, such as the everyday conversations people have.  The best scene is when the main character, Joe (Nick Robinson), is acutely disappointed when he is passed over by someone he expects to come to him.  His pain is palpable.  In general, I found the acting to be very good; it is the script that lacks spark in places.

 The cast of parents (Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Mark Evan Jackson) play their roles well, but I wished for more lines for them that were in a positive direction.  That is especially true for the father of Joe; his attempts to show affection at the end simply were not plausible given his previous boorish behavior.  I realize that parents are shown from the teenagers’ perspective, but they are in scenes where the adolescents are not present, so could have been shown in a better light those times.

 The film reminded me often of Moonrise Kingdom; it seemed like the filmmakers were trying to be as funny and heartwarming as it was, but fell short of the mark in drawing the audience in for a continuous experience and having quirky characters who are not so far-fetched they become unrealistic.   

Grade:  B-