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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Kings of Summer

Escaping parents in a coming-of-age comedy

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Parents can be so annoying! And in the droll coming-of-age comedy The Kings of Summer, a trio of teenage boys acts out a boyish fantasy by escaping from home to the woods. Best friends Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso), with the intensely odd Biaggio (Moises Arias) in tow, run away to an enchanted glade. They establish their kingdom of youth, building a clubhouse from scavenged materials and relying on a paperback borrowed from the public library, How to Live in the Woods. They are forced to cut some corners in their fantasy world. Giving up on hunting for game with stolen swords, they sneak off to the nearest Boston Market for carryout.

Naturally, the endless-seeming summer days become fraught with problems, girls among them.

Robinson and Basso catch the roiling hormones and sullen emotions of adolescence in this comedy of sight gags and dry humor. Much of the amusement comes from the uncomprehending relations between parents and sons. Joe’s dad, Frank (Nick Offerman), is demeaning and sarcastic, imposing arbitrary rules on his family and the unwilling world outside. Especially funny is Frank’s encounter with the Middle Eastern-American delivering an order of Chinese to the door, which devolves into an argument over the size of the wontons. By contrast, Patrick’s parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) are intrusively supportive—the brittle banality of their PC pretentiousness cracking under strain.

A favorite at Sundance, The Kings of Summer is an amusing lark of a movie that teases at the bonds of family and friendship.