The Kings Of Summer

Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring:  Nick Offerman, Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Megan Mullally, and Alison Brie

When I saw the trailer for The Kings of Summer, I was sold.  Not because I was excited about another suburban coming of age story, but because Nick Offerman is in the film.  I love Offerman as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation and I even enjoy when he reads tweets from young female celebrities on Conan.  With his dry delivery and sarcasm, Offerman can do no wrong for me.  I am delighted to say that The Kings of Summer delivered plenty of Offerman’s gruffness and a ton of heart.
Joe (Nick Robinson) is coming to the end of his freshman year in high school, and he is having a rough time.  Idiotic classmates clown him; and the girl he has a crush on Kelly (Erin Moriarty) has a much older boyfriend and she has relegated Joe to the dreaded role of “friend.”  Even worse, Joe's relationship with his father Frank (Offerman) is dismal.  Joe’s mother has passed, his sister Heather (Alison Brie) is away at college and Joe is left with his hard-nosed father.  Although Frank clearly loves Joe and is trying to be a good father, he also occasionally mocks him about masturbation and he is not averse to using tough love.

Meanwhile Joe’s friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is literally being smothered to death by his overprotective, dorky, slightly racist parents the Keenans played by Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson.  Mr. and Mrs. Keenan watch Patrick’s every move, force feed him vegetable soup, and they think Will Smith’s name is “Will Prince” because they are apparently just catching up on the 90’s show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Joe is fed up with his father and decides to run away so that he can be in charge of his own destiny.  He convinces Patrick and their eccentric friend Biaggio (Moises Arias) to build a house in a secluded spot deep in the forest and live in the wild. The three build a rustic house in the middle of the woods, swim in the lake, dance in the forest and hunt.  But problems surface when jealousy and a pretty girl come between the friends, and they realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

The Kings of Summer is a heart-warming dramedy filled with solid performances from a strong cast.  Offerman delivers his trademark sarcastic one-liners throughout the film, and Mullally draws laughs as the uptight, “square” mom.  The film is driven, however, by the three young actors: Robinson, Basso and Arias.  They are at times joyful, fun-loving, and at times brooding and filled with angst.  They go from krumpin’ to violin playing to hunting rabbits and kissing girls.  In a nutshell, they are typical teens going through the trials and tribulations of the evolution from boyhood to manhood.

Although I enjoyed the film, The Kings of Summer does not necessarily break any new ground.  It was a tad predictable in terms of the general plot and the film contained some heavy-handed foreshadowing.  It certainly did not come close to delivering that depth and emotional impact of my all time favorite coming of age tale, Stand by Me.  With that being said, there was something about the film that was engaging and joyful to watch. 

The Kings of Summer earns a 0.03% rating.  Have a wine cooler and enjoy “the Kings”.