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The Kings of Summer

A well-seasoned dramedy.

Rod Lott October 1st, 2013

Tired of rules and overbearing parents, best buds Joe (Nick Robinson, TV's Melissa & Joey) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso, Super 8) decide they aren't going to take it anymore. Thus, The Kings of Summer run away from home and build one of their own from scrap material, deep into the woods where their folks cannot find them. 


Socially awkward and undersized classmate Biaggio (Moises Arias, TV's Hannah Montana) comes along just for something to do, but the machete he brings along sure does come in handy. 


Although he indulges in shots of super-slow-motion too often, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (TV's Funny or Die Presents …) ably recaptures that feeling of when summer meant magic, when the season was free of obligation and full of possibilities. That the initial spell of the story cannot sustain itself for the entirety of the coming-of-age tale is disappointing, yet appropriate, as Joe's eyes are opened to matters of the heart, the limitations of friendship and other things most of us have to learn the hard way. 

Now on Blu-ray after a popular run at last summer's deadCENTER Film Festival, the often funny and mostly winning The Kings of Summer has merited endless comparisons to 1986's Stand by Me, but I found it more similar — emotionally, thematically and artistically — to Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, but with pubic hair.

Robinson and Basso both give solid performances, just shy of star-making. Arias attempts to steal every scene, but his character is tonally out-of-touch with the rest of the otherwise reality-grounded picture. Among the parental units, Nick Offerman (TV's Parks and Recreation) impresses most as Joe's widowed father. Because Offerman is in it, so is his real-life wife, Megan Mullally; in the spirit of independence, the two apparently arrive as a package deal.  —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:

• Funny or Die Presents: The Complete Second Season DVD review

• Moonrise Kingdom film review

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