The very best films meet one of just a few criteria. First there are films that take us somewhere we could never go in the real world – the kind of movie that immerses you completely in a new world, a new place, or just shows you a side of the world you’ve never seen before. Second, films can just be written to brilliantly as to give you insight into something you always thought you knew, but never experienced in the way it is portrayed. Third, and last on this admittedly spartan criteria, are movies that touch the audience. These are the movies that remind us of something we haven’t thought about in a while; the kind of movie that touches a chord inside of you and reminds you just how much good their is in the world. THE KINGS OF SUMMER is one of these, a masterfully crafted look at adolescence, independence, and above all, friendship.
Starring Nick Robinson (BOARDWALK EMPIRE, 2012) as Joe Toy, Gabriel Basso (SUPER 8, 2011) as Patrick, and the diminutive Moises Arias (Bonzo in the upcoming ENDER’S GAME movie) is Biaggio, our very own authentic three stooges. THE KINGS OF SUMMER focuses on their adolescent travails as they run away from home and spend a large part of the summer in a house they constructed in the forest near their hometown. Joe and Patrick have been best friends for their entire lives but Biaggio is a new addition to their friendship. The friendship between Joe and Patrick is the centerpiece of THE KINGS OF SUMMER and thankfully the chemistry between Robinson and Basso is brilliant.
Both Joe and Patrick long for a life away from their parents. Joe blames his father for his mother’s death (something wisely never explained in much detail) and it doesn’t help that his father (played with sharp brilliance by Nick Offerman) is obviously unhappy with his lot in life. Patrick, on the other hand, appears to have a perfect family with parents who are interested and inclusive of him in their activities. BUT given the boys’ ages (this is the summer before their sophomore year of high school) they are both fighting to be independent and to be taken seriously as adults.
The writing for THE KINGS OF SUMMER is absolutely flawless. The dialogue is tight and funny without any moments of obvious weakness. In fact, I would go so far to say that this is possibly the best writing I’ve seen in several years. The characters are both written and executed beautifully, resulting in a film that touched me in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. Have you ever watched a movie, or play, or gone to see an art exhibit and thought – man, I wish I was there. I wish I was in that. I wish I could have been part of that. That is how THE KINGS OF SUMMER makes me feel – I wish I could be a part of that world. At the same time, this is the type of movie that reminds you not only of the good but the difficult parts of adolescence.
The writing could be perfect and the movie still terrible if the casting hadn’t worked, but as I wrote above the casting is also really well done. Robinson and Basso bring to life not only their characters but the friendship, lending it an authenticity often missing from this type of film. Rounding them out is Moises Arias, a character actor who has done voice work for a large number of animated films. Arias provides an off-kilter balance for our best friends, offering strange but wonderful tidbits throughout the film – Arias could be best described as a treasure trove of little moments. Finally, the supporting cast is also incredible, with Nick Offerman (PARKS & RECREATION) as Joe’s incredibly smart/wise-ass father and Megan Mullally (WILL & GRACE) as Patrick’s mother. The love interest for our heroes is even great, if a little bit one dimensional.
As you can tell, I can’t recommend THE KINGS OF SUMMER enough, especially if you have positive memories about a relationship you had during this critical time in our development. Full of joy and pain; THE KINGS OF SUMMER is ultimately a story about growing up and learning who you, and your family, really are. Highly recommended.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) THE KINGS OF SUMMER features immersive imagery and beautiful shots. The color palette is muted for much of the film but it adds emphasis to the scenes of the outdoors.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is extremely well done for THE KINGS OF SUMMER Blu-ray. The dialogue heavy flick also features some great music and it all plays beautifully on this rich Blu-ray.
Audio Commentary featuring director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, writer Chris Galleta, and actors Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias (01:34:41) This is a great commentary, with lots of tidbits about the film. All of the participants have a unique point of view. A good addition to a great package for THE KINGS OF SUMMER.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (14:07) Some fun moments including a lot of footage from the improv day the lead actors spent with the director and writer, wondering through the woods. THE KINGS OF SUMMER was not enhanced by these moments and they were likely cut to keep the time flowing quickly… which it does… so I can’t fault them for cutting anything here. Five scenes are included in this group of special features. They include Pipe Drumming Montage, The Deli, The Mud Pit, Kelly Montage, and Drumming the Pipe.
The Long Shot (02:59) A very short semi-preview for THE KINGS OF SUMMER with a few snippets from interviews.
Frankly Speaking with Frank Toy (01:21) A very quick quasi-commercial featuring all of Nick Offerman’s great facial expressions and one-liners from THE KINGS OF SUMMER.
Alison and Eugene (02:17) Alison Brie and Eugene Cordero both took a break on set to do a quick discussion on their involvement in THE KINGS OF SUMMER.
The Blu-ray package of THE KINGS OF SUMMER also includes previews of other films from Sony Pictures.