Films tend to be the only time a group of privileged kids can get away with glamorizing the life of a runaway. Best believe, going from comfortable suburban living to becoming a hunter gatherer in the woods fending for yourself against imaginary bears but very real copperheads isn’t as festive as it sounds. Yet, Kings of Summer, in all its clichéd originality manages to not only bring wonder and majesty but heart to the tale of a group of friends escaping the excruciatingly normal realities of adolescence. If ever you’ve felt there could possibly be nothing harsher the world had to offer than burdensome parental guidance, this movie is undoubtedly for you.
Originally titled Toy’s House, the story opens with Joe Toy, a typical kid, living a typical life, beyond frustrated with a “bastard” of a father, still morning the passing of a mother while going through the final stages of youth. Joe’s best friend, Patrick, hobbles throughout his existence no better off with parents so cheerfully coupled it borders disgusting, in a good way. After a few incidents with his father, an inability to express himself to a love interest, and a run in with the ill-equipped for witty sarcasm small town cops, Joe breaks curfew to attend “Thirsty Thursdays” and winds up lost in the middle of the woods. Along with a weird, vertically challenged kid named Biaggio, Joe decides it’s time for him to become a man and this is the perfect place to start his new life, as a woodsman — not that far from the interstate and a Boston market. Patrick, hesitant at first, willingly comes along and the trio builds a pretty impressive shack in the woods out of a port-a-potty and some wood. The story follows them as they enjoy their freedom, while their families search for them, then a girl is thrown into the mix to rile things up, there are some really big wontons, a lot of monopoly gaming, and pretty much it all falls apart, as expected.
Sounds pretty average right? That’s what makes the film so great!
There is no grand story being told here, but instead a great story. It’s an American Tale about appreciation, family, becoming a man, loyalty to your friends, heart break, and the dangers of taking a chance, all on an intimately small scale.
What Did Work?
Biaggio! Biaggio is that weird kid in everyone’s high school that nobody wants to be friends with and is just always around doing creepy stuff. It doesn’t take long to realize he’s the most free of anyone and his simple understandings, and they are definitely simple, of the world around him make him so interesting. The kid deserves his own movie. There are scenes where he’s so one with nature that you’ll start to wish he was your friend. Some people might find his Krumping in the woods to be offensive, but as a member of the “darker” audience, it was insatiably hilarious.
Heather Toy or Alison Brie, because not only is she gorgeous even in the most basic roles, but she effortlessly brings charisma and depth with only a few lines. She WAS Frank Toy’s daughter. There is a great moment shared with her father that really sums up his issues, probably one of the best lines in the film.
Frank Toy. Nick Offerman managed to be Ron Swanson with a heart. It’s hard to tell if he’s playing a White Suburban father or a grizzly bear. His interaction with everyone from his son to the damn delivery man is exaggerated, but believable. He made other characters better when they exchanged lines, even if most of his lines were insults. Just know, they were some of the best insults you’ll ever hear.
Joe Toy. The kid was able to carry a film his first go around. It’s amazing how he’s able to portray a character working so hard to get away from his father that he ends up becoming just like him. When love is in the air, the hurt in his heart is so real. When it’s time for him to truly be on his own, he exudes innocence and savagery.
What Didn’t Work?
Biaggio, but only because there needed to be more Biaggio!
Patrick Keenan. But it’s not his fault. Blame Biaggio. There is so much on screen chemistry between Biaggio and Joe, that Patrick is always seen alone, until Kelly enters the picture. The actor, Gabriel Basso, could have played Joe Toy. If you don’t agree, go and watch The Big C. The character is complacent but strong. He’s a good friend but he’s not the leader. His motives were dense and the audience never really gets a feel for him other than he just wants to escape the nagging and the being treated like a gimp.
The Time Span and The Ending. It’s hard to tell if this film exaggerated on some things like peach fuzzy, facial hair growth just to make the characters look more rugged, but because of that their adventure seems a lot longer than it really was. Maybe that was the point. A few days seems like a few months when you’re enjoying yourself. This kind of takes away from the ending which is very predictable midway. The predictability doesn’t take away from what happens but still.
This is a must see indie film. The age range is all, except babies. There is literally something for everyone and maybe even more for parents of teenagers, who can remember what it was like to be a teenager but also know what it’s like to raise an unruly one.