Every kid everywhere can relate to having obnoxious parents. Whether it’s their strict rules or their annoying mannerisms, every teen feels like their parents are purposely trying to ruin their lives! We don’t ask for much! We just want to hangout with our friends, have some freedom and not always have them on our backs when we do anything. Sometimes, it gets hard to bear and we all just want to run away. Well, what if you and your friends decided to build your own house out in the woods and you began to live on your own? You’d hunt your food, gather your supplies and be cut off from the world! No more parents and no more rules! Is it a blessing, or a curse?
The Kings of Summer revolves around Joe (Nick Robinson), your average teenage guy who’s full of hormones and is sick of his dad always getting on his case. His dad, Frank (Nick Offerman), has lost his wife and is now dating a woman who Joe disapproves of. The result? Joe needs a mom and feels like his dad is making stupid decisions and stupid rules. On the other end of the spectrum is Patrick (Gabriel Basso). Patrick has the most obnoxious parents (Marc Evan Jackson & Megan Mullally) ever. They question his every decision and are hypersensitive about all of his answers. Both boys are best friends and are both fed up with their lives at home. One night, they sneak out to a party and stumble upon the bizarre Biaggio (Moises Arias). When the party is ruined, Joe is followed home by Biaggo. The two stumble upon a large grassy field in the middle of the woods and an idea s sparked in Joe’s mind.
Joe pitches the idea of moving into the woods to Patrick, whom initially rejects it. That is, until his parents drive him up the wall with their usual routines. As the boys begin building the house, they discuss their future plans on how they’ll survive alone and what all they’ll need before permanently moving out. As they plan, Biaggio manages to integrate himself into the group and becomes the odd third-wheel that they all enjoy having around. With a new house in the woods, the boys are free to establish their own rules, while their parents frantically search for them. In the woods, we get adulterated humor that you’d expect from teenage boys, some drama that comes along with friendships and a realistic take on what living on your own might be like (should you run away).
For me, this film worked on almost every level. I couldn’t help but associate the characters to myself and my friends. Like any kid, I’ve often been frustrated by my parents. I hate that I can’t stay out all night. I hate that they don’t trust me enough for certain things. The usual complaints you’ll get from a teenager. For us, life doesn’t seem fair and all the rules we get seem stupid. The “because I said so” gets old and we just want a taste of freedom. I’ve built forts and weapons with my friends and the woods and those are some of the fondest memories I have. The conversations are real, we’re experiencing nature and we’re getting to do what we want. I’d almost say that every kid should build a tree-house or fort and make a spear out of a stick. There’s just something real and fun about that.
Robinson and Basso did a great job in portraying the two types of kids you might meet. Whereas Robinson is the “leader” of the group who sees things his way, Basso has his own thoughts that are often discarded. Basso is the more concerned friend, as he isn’t sure if they can make it on their own and is wondering if his parents are doing okay. Robinson couldn’t be happier to be away from his dad and is loving being with his friends. The, there’s Arias, who plays the odd kid that everyone knows and loves. He’s quirky, weird and unpredictable, but he will have you laughing and enjoying the time you spend with him. These character all feel very real and I think that helps you connect with this film. You’ll also find lots of dry humor from Offerman that will have you cracking up!
What I think that I liked best about this film, is the transformation we see in these characters. While at first they’re new to living in the woods on their own, they adapt to their surroundings and begin to have fun with their new lives. There’s a great scene where Basso bursts out of their home while swinging a spear and then he throws the spear at their mailbox. He nails it, smirks and walks around all cool-like and happily mutters “bitch”. It may sound weird as you read it, but it’s hilarious in the movie because it’ something that I could see myself or my friends doing. Most teenagers swear, they just don’t do it around their parents or adults. Now that they’re in the woods, these guys can do whatever and say whatever they want! There’s something really empowering and enjoyable about that thought. Plus, these guys use swords to play real life Fruit Ninja and they also get to dance around and mess around with whatever they find. Now that sounds like a blast!
This film is somewhat the antithesis to The Spectacular Now, in the sense that this film provides a realistic take on a comedic coming-of-age tale. The actors are superb and the direction is solid! You really get attached to the characters and will find yourself relating to them on more than one level. I know that I certainly did. What sounds better than living with your best friends and getting to do all kinds of crazy stuff with them? While it is a more “mature” take on coming-of-age, I think that’s kind of necessary to tell a believable story. Teenagers don’t want to see a film that sugarcoats what it really feels like to be full of angst. We want a film that presents us with something we can all see ourselves doing or saying, so as to directly connect us to the film. In that sense, The Kings of Summer does just that! It might not appeal to every audience, but I can guarantee that almost every teenager who sees this film will have a wonderful time with it!
The Kings of Summer Red-Band Trailer (NSFW)