[pullquote_left]It all feels so genuine that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a film, and not peering directly into the lives of actual teenagers.[/pullquote_left]It seems that most comedies about teenage boys tend to focus on their characters attempting to acquire one of two things: sex or booze (and sometimes both). More often than not, the results are derivative: for every Superbad, there’s a Project X or a 21 and Over or any number of recycled ideas following the same formula, and it seems that Hollywood has forgotten that not every fifteen-year-old kid wants to toss back a few cold ones and try to weasel his way into some girl’s panties.
The Kings of Summer bucks the trend by having its protagonists aspire to a much loftier goal: independence. After one too many arguments and failed attempts at communication, Joe (Nick Robinson) resolves to spend his summer in the woods, to build his own house, forage and hunt for his own food, and to survive without the interference of his overbearing father (Nick Offerman, in a scene-stealing role). Accompanying him on this quest for manhood are his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and mysterious outcast Biaggio (Moises Arias).
[pullquote_right]Probably the funniest film of the year. It’s refreshing, it’s original, and it needs to be seen.[/pullquote_right]The script from Chris Galletta hearkens back to classic adolescent stories such as The Goonies and Stand By Me, which director Jordan Vogt-Roberts readily acknowledges as influences, but the talented young leads make it their own, quickly establishing characters that we connect with, characters that evoke an emotional response. Every word, every facial expression, every interaction – it all feels so genuine that it’s easy to forget you’re watching a film, and not peering directly into the lives of actual teenagers.
Much like the films that served as its inspiration, we find ourselves less concerned about the particulars of the journey, and much more interested in who these characters become along the way. There’s plenty of humor on display here – indeed, this is probably the funniest film of the year so far – but the laughs never come at the expense of the storytelling. The Kings of Summer is a brilliant, engrossing slice of nostalgia, and the best coming-of-age film in more than a decade. It’s refreshing, it’s original, and it needs to be seen.