Sundance 2013: “The Kings of Summer” – Review by MovieManMenzel

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A smart, funny, and unique coming of age tale.

Joe Toy () is just your typical teenage guy trying to figure out his life. He has a crush on Kelly () and is tired of his father Frank () bossing him around and telling him what to do. So one day, Joe decides to leave his father’s house because he is fed up with all the family drama. With the help of his best friend Patrick () and his new friend Biaggio (), they build their own house in the middle of the woods away from everyone.  Over the next few weeks, these three friends learn a lot about life as well as themselves in the process.

I originally saw The Kings of Summer when the film first premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. At the time of its premiere, the film was entitled Toy’s House, which I still feel was a better title for the film. The movie was one of the most talked about films at the festival and went on to play in several other festivals all across the world.  During a recent screening here in Philadelphia, I decided to see the film again to confirm if it was as good as I remembered it to be. To my surprise, I enjoyed the film even more the second time around.

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As most film lovers know, coming of age films are definitely the type of film that are released quite often. Most of these films can usually go one of two ways; One, you can have a film like Moonrise Kingdom that blows audiences away or two, you can have a film like Tanner Hall, where you feel like the story just drags on and on. Luckily, The Kings of Summer is like the first option.

Honestly, I grew up in the 1980’s so I adore coming of age tales especially when you consider how many I grew up watching with the John Hughes era and all. The Kings of Summer is a really great coming of age film because while it tackles all the typical teenage things such as family, friendship, and love, it does so with a unique premise. The idea of three friends building a house in the woods together brought back memories from some of those classic coming of age films like The Goonies and Stand by Me.

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One of the biggest reasons that this film works is because of the friendship and bond between the three friends. You have Joe, who serves as the ringleader, you have Patrick who seems to be more realistic than the others, and lastly you have Biaggio, who is the oddball of the bunch. These three friends have great chemistry and dialogue with one another, which allows the viewer to really appreciate their friendship and this journey they are on.

There are so many memorable moments from the film including a campfire scene where Joe and Biaggio are talking about women and Biaggio states that he is gay. This scene is particularly humorous because while you read this and go to yourself, “oh no, not another gay story-line” its not like that at all. I won’t spoil it for you, but trust me its not what you think the explanation is. I also love the scene where the three friends split up in order to track down food, but they end up buying Boston Market instead.

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Besides the main leads, I also really dug Nick Offerman in this movie as Joe’s father Frank. I am a huge Offerman fan and its not just because I love him as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. I honestly love his sarcastic humor and think he has great comedic timing when delivering his lines. While I enjoyed all the scenes with Offerman in this film that showcased his sarcastic nature, I really enjoyed the rich story-line between him and his son. I thought that it really showed how both characters grew throughout the film, which made it feel much more powerful than only one of these characters learning about themselves.

Alison Brie, who plays Heather, is the only sane character in the film. Heather is Frank’s daughter and while some say she didn’t really bring much to the table, I think the film used well because she served as a rational character. I think the one scene where she confronts Frank about what he is doing was a key moment in the film and helped showcase Frank’s growth as an individual. Additionally, she brought some balance to the film’s quirky characters such as Megan Mullally who was a ton of fun as Patrick’s mom, but again was extremely quirky and bizarre.

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All in all, I think the majority of those who see The Kings of Summer will appreciate it as a whole.  Sure, there will be some that find the film to be too quirky for their tastes, and others might say it has too much of an “indie” feel to it, but for me it was the near perfect balance of a indie and a main stream coming of age tale. I loved the humor, I loved the story, and even loved the score, which played a really big role in the film as well. If I ultimately had to describe this film to someone, I would say that its a mixture of Moonrise Kingdom and Stand by Me with the heart of The Goonies.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Kings of Summer is a 8.5 out of 10.  Definitely one of my favorite films of the year!

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