Revisiting: The Kings of Summer (2013)

9 Aug

By Tanner Smith

Well, it’s time for another “Tanner Changes His Opinion Of A Movie After Several More Viewings” post. It’s like initial reviews are practically pointless!

When I first saw The Kings of Summer back in 2013, I liked parts of it, but other parts like stylish slo-mo sequences and REALLY annoying side characters that should’ve been funnier always took me out of it.

Much of my original review hasn’t changed. Whenever I see those scenes that clearly establish the director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has a style he’s trying to go for, all I see is “NOTICE MY DIRECTING” in big bold letters. But they’re still not nearly as grating as all the scenes involving the idiot cops played by Mary Lynn Rajskub and Thomas Middleditch, a random appearance from Kumail Nanjiani as a Chinese-food delivery man for an argument about wontons, and a subplot involving Alison Brie’s dorky boyfriend played by Eugene Cordero. They don’t feel real–they feel like a screenwriter is trying desperately hard to make his audience laugh when he’s not confident enough in his essential comic relief!

With that said, at least the parents of our teenage protagonists, Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso), are meant to be grating, since that’s what causes them to run away from home and live in a makeshift home in a woods clearing. Nick Offerman plays Joe’s a-hole father, and he’s more real than the other adults I mentioned. And as annoying as Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson are as Patrick’s overly clingy parents (Mullally even has a riff on cops that goes on WAY too long), they at least add to the story.

The essential comic relief I mentioned is supplied by Biaggio, a weird, WEIRD kid who tags along with Joe and Patrick. He’s played by Moises Arias, who has appeared in other films like “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” “Five Feet Apart,” and “The King of Staten Island,” and he clearly wants us to forget he was Rico on “Hannah Montana.” (It’s working–I have to remind myself sometimes.) I have absolutely no idea who Biaggio is supposed to be as a person, and it’s amazing how he’s barely a character at all, but I find him freaking hilarious. And Arias is giving it his all throughout the film.

Here are some out-of-context examples of Biaggio’s dialogue:
-“I can read…I can’t cry.”
-“He has a shadow behind his eyes.”
-“I met a dog the other day. It taught me how to die.”
-“It took very little time. Very few days.”

It’s easy to pick on the little stuff scattered throughout “The Kings of Summer,” but what about the main story with Joe and Patrick? All of that is handled really well. The two young actors are very good, carry convincing chemistry as friends, and have interesting individual arcs. Even though they have a rivalry that develops when their mutual crush threatens their summer paradise, I don’t mind that it’s predictable because it feels inevitable.

The things that are good about “The Kings of Summer” are so good that the other stuff doesn’t really matter. Better to realize it later than never.

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