Directed By: Jordan Vogts-Roberts
Starring: Nick Robertson, Moises Arias
Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths
In our technology-savvy modern world, the sense of wonder and enthusiasm in the ‘youth’ of today seems to have somewhat diminished. Growing fond of swanky headsets as they blurt orders to fellow gamers as they become engrossed in a fantastical world, whilst their nostalgia-loving parents look on bemused as memories of their colourful childhood come flooding back. Desperate to connect with our inner child and remind us that the outdoors are indeed ‘great’, director Jordan Vogts-Roberts takes us on an adventure brimming with affection and charm.
Still reeling from the tragic death of his mother, the socially awkward tendencies of Joe (Nick Robinson) continue to hamper the quality of his school life and the turbulent relationship with his short-tempered father Frank (Nick Offerman). Whilst fond of his older sister Heather (Alison Brie), the unfortunate case of her living away from home leaves him seeking solace in broad shouldered best buddy Patrick (Gabriel Basso), whom is trapped in his own parental nightmare.
Often seen rolling his eyes at his oddball and overbearing parents (Marc Evan Johnson and Megan Mullally), he is craving an escape route. Increasingly frustrated at being misunderstood by their ‘seniors’, Joe and Patrick recruit the equally bizarre Biaggio (Moises Arias) as they seek refuge in the woods by building their own ‘crib’. Rebuilding their self esteem in the process, they become entranced by the carefree nature of this alternative way of living and their idyllic surroundings.
Its premise has inevitably drawn comparisons with a 1986 Rob Reiner classic in the form of ‘Stand By Me’ and for all its relentless energy, the film certainly owes a debt to such works of that era. Towing the line between its indie sensibilities with the sun kissed picturesque quality of Vogts-Roberts’ direction evoking the works of Terrence Malick, whilst channelling the frat-pack comedies with its brand of deadpan humour, ‘The Kings Of Summer’ is surprisingly deft at subverting the cliches of the coming-of-age film.
In juxtaposing the authoritative and oblivious personas of the parental figures as they fight a losing battle to remain ‘relevant’ to their children, with the oppressed demeanour of our playful central trio as they seek a true sense of masculinity, Vogts-Roberts equipped with a razor-sharp script garners terrific performances from his ensemble. Establishing a wonderful camaraderie, Offerman, Basso and Arias respectively exude confidence and conviction in abundance. You will sympathise with Joe and Patrick’s plights as the trajectory of their friendship continues to change course, yet in turn will be left in stitches by the outlandish one-liners from Arias’ scene-stealer Biaggio.
As much about the difficulties that come with growing up as it is about filling its audience with a fuzzy feeling of nostalgia, ‘The Kings Of Summer’ is an irresistibly charming and poignant joy.
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