The Kings of Summer is two jacks and a dunce

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The Kings of Summer – 2013

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Actors Nick Robinson, Moisés Arias, Gabriel Basso, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally
Writer Chris Galletta

The intended strong point for The Kings of Summer is quirkiness that falls somewhere between Stand by Me and Napoleon Dynamite.  Taking the coming of age cliché and making it an extended camp out, the 3 erstwhile kings of the title, Robinson, Basso and Arias offer a few moments of levity, a few groans and some real ingenuity.  Our 3 young men, Joe, Patrick and Biaggio have their own reasons for absconding from their homes and taking pieces of the town from everywhere and building a house out in the woods.  Joe (Robinson) is just bristling with tension with a terribly dry witted father (Offerman, in a role not too far from Parks and Rec) as they both try to deal with his being a single parent.  Patrick (Basso) is mainly a follower of his less popular friend Joe.  That his parents are idiots just push a maybe to a full-blown “yes.”

Standing off to the side – just there to be weird – is Biaggio.  He is there mainly to add to the Napoleon Dynamite quotient.  His character is not so much annoyingly played as he is poorly written.  It’s a shame, since Arias has a very distinct presence on the screen, but he is offered little to go on here.  That they give him a thought process that includes believing he is homosexual because he has symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis and that he thinks the word for snake in Italian means “demon’s cock” is indicative that they put too much thought and not enough belief in his character.  They throw a blank eyed girl his way at the end of the film to give watchers a sense of happiness for the character.  Why then do they have him willingly living alone in the abandoned house after the credits?

It’s really kind of cool seeing the kind of place they create with all that stuff they lifted from other places.  The random stuff they do in the woods is innocent and wonderful, especially the rhythmic drumming routine they find themselves in at the open and the middle of the film.  Who wouldn’t want to hang out with their friends somewhere where they would not be found for as long as they wanted?  We had a spot like that called the Frog Pond when I grew up.  One of my brothers built a log cabin, and then someone tore it down.  Later another brother found a pot field and destroyed it.  So I guess it wasn’t somewhere others couldn’t find…

The rest of the film is standard stuff.  Boy likes girl.  Girl literally steps over boy to get to his friend in a great scene.  Boy dreams about girl, and then finds another boy in his place in the same spot.  Girl speaks frankly with boy.  He settles with being in the friend zone and reconnects with his buddy in the end.  

Did I ruin it for you?  I highly doubt it.  Nothing can outpace the disappointment any normal person would get at the poor handling of Biaggio.  Just try to explain how his character benefits from being in the story.  Contemplate how none of us ever really knew someone who had that much loyalty but was witheringly dense at the same time.  I don’t think that Galletta intends to have his comic relief displayed in such a way.  His very existence, as displayed, is no more than a gimmick, poorly executed.  If they’d just spent more time feeling the character out and tried making him more realistic, the film and the viewer would benefit.

(*** out of *****)

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