The Kings of Summer

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kings of summerI’m always amazed at how many indie movies get it wrong with their music and soundtracks. This happens even with movies that use the music scene as part of the premise.

This indie film starts with Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song, and you get great tunes from MGMT, Lee Scratch Perry, and mostly Guster frontman Ryan Miller (Safety Not Guaranteed).

The other thing this coming-of-age story has going for it is that it’s originally and quirky in a fun way. If you try to compare it to another movie, you might think of Stand by Me or perhaps Moonrise Kingdom. You can’t really say Lord of the Flies, since it never really gets that dark. It’s also important to not focus so much on the implausibility of the premise – that teenagers tired of their bad home lives would be able to go out into the woods and build their own house there.

Writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts haven’t hit a homerun with their first feature film, but it’s a solid double. It’s a movie I knew nothing about, and was pleasantly surprised watching it.

The teenagers in this were all perfect in their parts. They were unknown actors, which helps. They also looked like teenagers. You can see why their characters would be so bothered by their parents.

Nick Offerman is always interesting to watch (find him reading tweets on Conan – best thing on late night TV). He plays a widower that is a bit clueless when it comes to his kids (and dating). He also has a sarcastic tone that’s hilarious. Watching them fight during a Monopoly game was funny and very well-written.

Offerman’s real life wife and co-star on Parks and Recreation plays the clueless mom of another teen.

There’s a weird kid named Biaggio (Moises Arias), that would normally be a distraction in a movie like this. You often watch a film like Napoleon Dynamite and think it’s entertaining enough, but you wonder why anybody would put up with such dolts. Biaggio is like that, but for some reason, he just keeps showing up uninvited and you keep laughing when he does.

And how can you not like a movie in which teenagers living on their own in the woods, argue over who will be the hunters and who will be the gatherers – and then end up enjoying food courtesy of a nearby Boston Market.

A lot of times when a teen comedy has a little heart, people want to throw the name John Hughes around. It’s probably more accurate to compare this to a Wes Anderson film.

There were tonal shifts in the movie that worked for me, but won’t for everyone. There are also a few elements that made me feel like I was watching a sitcom. Yet when it’s all said and done, it’s a flawed movie that still works.

It gets 3 starts out of 5.

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