MRR Review: "The Kings of Summer"

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Joe Toy, finds himself increasingly frustrated by his single father. Declaring his freedom once and for all, he escapes to a clearing in the woods with his best friend, Patrick, and a strange kid named Biaggio. He announces that they are going to build a house there. The young men find themselves masters of their own destiny.
3.5

MRR Review: "The Kings of Summer"

-- Rating: R
Length: 93 minutes
Release date: May 31, 2013
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Genre: Comedy

"The Kings of Summer" is an amusing coming-of-age story that appeals to viewers' cravings for freedom, rebellion, and friendship. The movie is about three teenage boys who go off the map, choosing to run away and live in a house that Joe Toy plans to build with his friend Patrick and newcomer Biaggio. Joe is fed up with his single dad's tyrannical "while you live under my roof" parenting style, and decides to jump out his second story window and run away. Joe is portrayed by Nick Robinson, who many know as Ryder on "Melissa & Joey." Joe ditches his sister Heather (Alison Brie) and love interest Kelly (Erin Moriarty), and talks his best bro Patrick Keegan (Gabriel Basso of "The Big C") into running away with him. The bromance also stars Biaggio (Moises Arias), a strange little boy who Joe and Patrick meet along the way. Biaggio's motives for his disappearing act are unclear, but he earns his place in the film as the quirky guy who does a lot of inexplicable things for laughs.

Once in the woods away from their lame parents, the threesome builds a house and enjoys the freedom of home ownership without a mortgage, or pesky things like cable, electricity, and plumbing. The boys agree to live off the land in the name of freedom and keeping a low profile, though occasionally they get some help from a nearby Boston Market. Filmed in Ohio, the movie features stunning views of nature reminiscent of the 1997 hit "Wild America," where three brothers go out into nature with the dream of becoming naturalists. These Kings of Summer have a less ambitious goal; they just want to have fun.

The film also stars Nick Offerman of TV's "Parks and Recreation," who, although looking very un-Ron Swanson-like, portrays much of the same gruff and cranky attitude fans love. He delivers gems such as, "He just serenaded me. I can't pretend that's acceptable," in a condescending tone that by itself speaks volumes. Offerman plays Frank Toy, a widower and the father of Joe and Heather. Offerman's real life wife, Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace"), plays Patrick's mother, who is married to Marc Evan Jackson's ("Suit Up)" character. Mullally and Jackson are the uptight parents who substitute smothering for love and support. Offerman and Mullally showed their delightful on-screen comedic chemistry in several episodes of "Parks and Recreation," and their reunion in "The Kings of Summer" won't disappoint fans of the two talented actors.

This movie is filled with hilarious one-liners, sarcasm, goofiness, and colorful language that will audiences laughing up a storm. Not just another teen comedy, "The Kings of Summer" also explores the concept of family, both the one people are born with and the one they adopt along the way. The boys learn what everyone must eventually figure out: no one can run away from their problems for very long, especially after sneaking away with all the canned goods and pasta in the house and without leaving a note. The audience should really feel sorry for the police who must suffer abuse from parents so awful their kids would rather give up video games and running water than to live with them for one more moment.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts does a decent job of making a point about life catching up to you and the repercussions of trying to keep your children from growing up. First-time screenwriter Chris Galletta gives a realistic insight into the minds of these three teenagers. Parents may view the film as a cautionary tale, the clear message being that if they smother their children or attempt to rule them with an iron fist their kids just might run away, if not physically than emotionally.

Originally shown under the name "Toy's House" at the Sundance Film Festival, "The Kings of Summer" is a children's fantasy of running not just away from one's parents but also toward adulthood. Unfortunately in life, there are no shortcuts. Thankfully, the director took no shortcuts to make this film, though it does have a few flaws. The movie relies too much on the gimmicky antics of Biaggio for laughs and introduces characters like Heather's boyfriend Colin who serve no purpose other than to be an object of ridicule, but overall the movie succeeds.

Rated 3.5 of 5 stars