The Kings of Summer (2013) coming of age tale reigns supreme

Photo Credit: The Kings of Summer / CBS Films
Joe's (Nick Robinson) summer looks like it will be the same as always. Homework assignments are long overdue, his crush on Kelly is ruined by her boyfriend Paul, and Joe's father rules his house with iron-clad sarcasm (Nick Offerman). Same goes for his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso). With a fractured ankle, he has no hopes for escaping the G-rated environment of his nitpicking parents.

This summer is going to be different. With oddball friend Biaggio, the trio builds a lifesize shabby birdhouse fit for three teens ready to rule - bang on some drums, play Monopoly, tell war stories, and live off the land. Cheers to freedom and being your own man.

Yet even in their anti-parent environment, the road traveled to becoming an adult comes with conflict. The necessity of living from the land and trying to capture possums are superseded by a Boston Market not far out of reach. Snakes slither through their backyard, which two of the boys don't feel is a viable threat. And, young fertile hearts ready for love are broken.

Teenagers are teenagers but this line can overwhelmingly blurred in indie flicks. Characters can fall into the wayside of "wit" - which today is often richly overdone with sarcasm (thanks, Juno!). Style often pulls together a collection of hipster chic montages thinly veiled on a young adult love story (thanks 500 Days of Summer!). Characters are misunderstood, but the script doesn't enhance clever ploys to make their world come together. The Kings of Summer has those aspects but doesn't rest on conventional laurels.

After they run out of canned food and money, Joe, Patrick, and Biaggio don't know exactly what they want from their humble abode. Their home away from home starts as a place to be wherever their parents aren't. As friendships twist and turn, they learn growing up is about trial and error; learning to resolve conflicts within yourself and with others - even the parents you dread the most. They can always be bears fighting for their right to rule...but if they don't believe in anything, thrones can crumble.

On paper, The Kings of Summer could be like any other adventure indie. The performances by Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias, and the script creates a refreshing stand-out. Billed as a Stand By Me film, I'm happy to say that the comparison is worth it. The Kings of Summer is a trifecta of family drama, comedy, and teen angst. I need this movie now & forever.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen The Kings of Summer? What did you think?

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