Freshman year of high school has just ended for Patrick (Gabriel Basso) who isn’t looking forward to spending the summer under the same roof as his over protective parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson), who monitor his every move and tease him mercilessly about his raging hormones. The situation’s even worse for Joe (Nick Robinson) whose widowed father’s (Nick Offerman) way of grieving involves belittling and grounding Joe at every opportunity.
One night at a party, the best friends come up with a solution to their predicament when they discover a clearing in the middle of the forest. Why not build a house out in the woods where they will be free from the abuse and control of their meddling parents?
Swearing each other to secrecy, they hatch an impromptu plan to live off the land. They are joined in their clandestine endeavor by classmate Biaggio (Moises Arias), a mysterious eccentric contemporary who is willing to help them out.
Next, they’re building a shack out of materials they found on a construction lot, and forage for food by diving into a dumpster behind a restaurant. Meanwhile, their worried parents are calling the poice, convinced that the missing boys have been kidnapped.
That is the point of departure of The Kings of Summer, a quirky comedy that is also the directorial debut of Jordan Vogt-Roberts. His laugh-a-minute adventure is reminiscent of some the best of the rebellious adolescent genre movies, such as Stand by Me (1986), Superbad (2007), Ghost World (2001), Super 8 (2011) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
The picture’s clever script, written by first-timer Chris Galletta, is laced with hilarious scenes such as when Biaggio attempts to throw the police off their trail with a ransom note from the fictitious “Jamal Colorado” inspired by combining a black first name with one of the fifty states. Biaggio’s main role in the film is to provide intermittent comic relief.
The movie is about the trio’s struggle to survive while eluding the search party. The plot thickens with the sudden arrival of Kelly (Erin Moriarty) at their hideaway, a beautiful young woman who Joe is interested in dating.
Will Kelly prove to be the boys’ undoing, or will their bond remain intact? Let’s just say that between memorable performances by a cast of relative newcomers, and a haunting score by Ryan Miller, The Kings of Summer is a sleeper not to be missed.
Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity and underage alcohol consumption. In English and Italian with subtitles. Running time: 95 minutes. Distributor: CBS Films.