MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By CBS Films
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Starring Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso
I’m a sucker for movies filmed around Cleveland, my place of birth, and I am even more smitten with films shot around Chagrin Falls, my hometown. Producer Tyler Davidson, a Chagrin Falls Tiger (Class of ’93) is dedicated to bringing film crews to Northeast Ohio and The Kings of Summer is this year’s offering.
Joe Toy (Robinson) is a smart 15-year-old who is interested in girls and hanging out with his best friend Patrick (Basso) during one lazy summer in Ohio. Both boys are dealing with painful family situations. Patrick’s parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) are simply weird, attempting to be hip but succeeding only in irritating Patrick. Joe’s mother has recently died and his widower father Frank (Nick Offerman) tries to cover up his grief by giving Joe a hard time. Joe responds by dialing 911 and claiming abuse. When the local cops show up (they are a couple of wacky characters reminiscent of The Andy Griffith Show) there are some awkward moments, but all is forgiven. Joe’s sister Heather (Alison Brie) is sympathetic, but she is living away from home with her fiancée and can’t always be around to mediate family tension.
One day Joe has an epiphany in the nearby woods and decides that he and Patrick should grab some tools, steal some lumber, and build a getaway for themselves where they can live off the land in their own private Walden. At a big outdoor party they are joined by Biaggio (Moises Arias), a strange boy who decides to become their friend. The more they succeed in creating their home away from home, the more they drift apart from their families; soon they will have to face some of their own challenges as friends.
The Kings of Summer (The original title was “Toy’s House”) is a unique film that has been compared to Stand By Me, Moonrise Kingdom, and this year’s Mud. It’s a comedy without a lot of big laughs, filled with improbable coincidences and farfetched situations, including high school kids who act like middle-schoolers. There is a lot of pain in this film, including some mean spirited comments between parents and children, and the mood swings between scenes are abrupt and off-putting, making the film seem stitched together rather than a cohesive whole.
Still, all the performances are good (especially Offerman and Arias) and The Kings of Summer has its heart in the right place. I’m just not quite sure where its head is at.
Two halos: A mildly entertaining wish fulfillment fantasy for middle-school youth, who won’t be able to purchase a ticket.
Three pitchforks : Mild but pervasive swearing, mild sex jokes, much underage social drinking, much petty theft.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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