Movie Review: The Kings of Summer [2013]

The Kings of Summer [2013]

The Kings of Summer [2013]
Directors: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenplay: Chris Galletta
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Erin Moriarty, Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson
Running Time: 93 minutes

There’s always a girl.

We’ve heard it all before: two best friends who do everything together have their friendship tested when a girl comes between them. True friends are able to overcome such difficulties, but it isn’t always easy.

Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) are two such best friends. Both are growing increasingly detached from their current mundane summer, largely because they can’t stand their parents. Joe’s father, Frank (Nick Offerman, in one of his best performances yet), is a bit of a hard-ass who is miserable to everyone around him because he himself is miserable (this is told to him point blank by his daughter, played by Alison Brie). Patrick’s parents, Mr. (Marc Evan Jackson) and Mrs. Keenan (Megan Mullally), are overprotective and about as square as it gets. They are constantly making groan-worthy comments.

The Kings of Summer [2013]

One day, while walking home from a party, Joe discovers a wide-open space in the middle of the woods. This moment is something of an epiphany for him — in his eyes, this large area would be *perfect* for a house. He gets his buddy Patrick in on the idea, and together with the help of a peculiar peer named Biaggio (Moises Arias), they scavenge materials and begin building their own private hideout. The house actually turns out quite well (it doesn’t fall down, anyway), and the boys decide to run away from their homes altogether and live here for the summer.

It’s here in these woods where the film shines. We get to watch these guys bond in a way that only teenagers can, and they do their best to hunt, gather and otherwise survive on their own. Things get a little rough when Joe invites his current crush, Kelly (Erin Moriarty), to their hideout. Naturally, adding a girl to the equation changes everything, and the friendship between Joe and Patrick is shaken at its core.

The Kings of Summer is very much a “coming of age” film, and a lot of what it sets out to do has been done before. Yet it still manages to be a very enjoyable film overall. The kids, namely all three of the boys, do well in capturing the feelings of youth — who hasn’t, as a kid, wanted to escape from reality and live on their own away from adults? While it may be somewhat less believable today — can teenagers really go days, let alone weeks, without internet access? — the film still nails that fun sense of adventure.

The Kings of Summer [2013]

The cast of young actors are all fun to watch and they should all have bright futures in the business, but the real star of the film is Nick Offerman. It’s always fun to watch him in his comedic roles, but he does so well here in a rare dramatic take. His character does make his fair share of wisecracks, but they come at inopportune times. Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson are also quite good as the hilariously lame parents.

The Kings of Summer has some issues with its script — some of the dialogue is forced, and a few lines feel like they could have been Juno outtakes — but it’s a fun, carefree ride while it lasts. The perfect lighthearted antidote to this summer’s bombastic blockbusters.

8/10

Movie Review: Somebody Up There Likes Me [2012]

Somebody Up There Likes Me [2012]

Somebody Up There Likes Me [2012]
Director: Bob Byington
Screenplay: Bob Byington
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Nick Offerman, Keith Poulson, Jess Weixler
Running Time: 76 minutes

Somebody Up There Likes Me is an indie comedy that will no doubt fly under most people’s radars. Its biggest selling point is its co-producer, Nick Offerman, who also has a supporting role in the film. Without him, I imagine this would have a hard time gaining any traction.

The film follows the life of aimless twentysomething Max (Keith Poulson), a waiter who is recovering from a divorce. He works with his best friend, Sal (Offerman), and falls in love with another co-worker, the breadstick-chomping Lyla (Jess Weixler). Max and Lyla quickly get married, and the film shows their subsequent life together in five year increments.

The two of them have a kid, get rich, have affairs and struggle as parents, all within the film’s 76-minute running time. Max never ages in appearance, and the other characters only show their age via subtle changes to their hair color. Max is also in possession of a mysterious briefcase that emits blue color when opened — perhaps that is the source of his seemingly eternal youth? Not unlike Pulp Fiction, we are never shown what’s inside.

Somebody Up There Likes Me [2012]

There’s a lot crammed into the film’s brief length, yet it feels like nothing of any substance ever happens. Major life events come and go in a matter of minutes. While this is a part of the film’s shtick, it makes it hard to care about any of the characters.

It doesn’t help that Max is a completely unlikable guy anyway. His disenchanted and apathetic demeanor (think Napoleon Dynamite) isn’t appealing in the slightest, and it’s miraculous that he manages to stumble his way into success while hooking up with beautiful women as if it were nothing. Sometimes his deadpan delivery gives way to some good jokes, but most of the time it falls flat.

Somebody Up There Likes Me [2012]

The best moments of the film come from Nick Offerman’s character — no surprise there — even though he isn’t given much to work with. Sal isn’t terribly different from Ron Swanson (of Parks & Recreation), but his blend of sarcasm never fails to amuse. There are also a couple of welcome cameos from Kevin Corrigan and Megan Mullaly.

In the end, there isn’t a whole lot to separate Somebody Up There Likes Me from the countless other indie comedies that have come out in recent years. Even its unique characteristics, such as Bob Sabiston’s (Walking Life, A Scanner Darkly) animated interludes, are underutilized and fail to paint a lasting impression. There’s a lot of talent in this film, but sadly it never comes together as any more than a one-off project.

5/10

 
On a side note, I went to a screening where Nick Offerman did a Q&A in person. Those 10 minutes of Offerman speaking were more hilarious than anything found in this movie.