“The Kings of Summer” is a unique coming of age movie

By Carolyn Freeman

If you mixed “Superbad” with “Lord of the Flies” and then topped it off with some indie-flick lens flares, you’d probably end up with something like “The Kings of Summer,” coming out this May.

Photo courtesy aceshowbiz.com.

In the film, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts offers an earnest and surprisingly funny window into the lives of three teenage boys: best friends Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) and Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso), joined by the delightfully-eccentric Biaggio (Moises Arias — yes, Rico from “Hannah Montana”). Sick of their lives — and particularly their parents — the boys hatch a plan to build a house in the woods and live independently for the summer.

After somehow managing to build a structurally sound abode, the teens take up residence, blissfully free from the responsibilities of their old lives and vowing to “be their own men.”

The audience watches as the boys embark on a tirade of wilderness shenanigans. The montage of relentless boyish charm might get boring if it wasn’t so darn cute. Keep an eye out for the captivating nature shots interspersed.

The film is also rich with comedy. The parents are a notable highlight when they scramble to find the runaways. Joe’s single father, Frank (Nick Offerman) is a character remarkably similar to Offerman’s gruff and deadpan Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation.” The typecasting isn’t a problem, as his portrayal remains funny and genuine. Patrick’s mother and father’s overbearing and overly cheerful antics are always amusing. Everything Biaggio does is flat out hilarious; he scores a lot of the film’s many laughs.

Of course, the idyllic summer can’t last forever, and things go downhill when a girl comes into the picture. Joe’s crush, Kelly (Erin Moriarty), is a disappointingly one-dimensional character. She serves her purpose of driving a wedge between the gang when she takes a liking to Patrick, but doesn’t do much else. The movie’s true charm lies in the bond among the boys, and the predictable love triangle seems tired and contrived, especially due to the lack of chemistry between Kelly and Patrick. But Robinson’s acting helps it feel real as Joe essentially transitions into his surly and bitter father, the one identity he wanted to avoid.

The boys eventually must return to their real lives and families, but their time in the woods is something that they and the audience will never forget. The film entertains the typical teenage wish for independence, and a young audience can easily connect with the characters. Their frustration and exhilaration, and everything in between, is refreshingly real. “The Kings of Summer” premieres in theaters May 31.