Friday, May 31, 2013

Even seniors and movie snobs might buy Galletta/Vogt-Roberts' KINGS OF SUMMER

So bright and sunny and frisky and fun is THE KINGS OF SUMMER that I am tempted to call it a kind of Leave It to Beaver for this millennium (or maybe a Leave It to Biaggio). This new film, written by Chris Galletta and directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (shown below), is also quirky, smart and (for all its nods to the look and feel of "independent" movies) quite mainstream in its goals (parents are indeed wonderful, loving people, so there!) That it has been hit with an "R" rating is one of the idiocies of our current ratings system. (Yeah, it has some naughty language: so the fuck what?!) This one of those rare films about teens that young people ought to see, fer Chrissakes.

Telling the tale of two best friends -- one of whom decides to leave home, build a house in the nearby "forest," and live there for the summer -- who are joined by a third oddity (who is not even a friend, let alone a "best"), the movie is full of funny dialog that generally seems real, crazy situations that manage to squeak by one's disbelief threshold, all abetted by performances cool enough to pass muster with both sophisticated audiences and the peers of this movie's more-or-less teenage cast. And it's all just different enough to register as some-thing genuinely "new" in the summertime, non-blockbuster, forget-your-troubles-come-on-get-happy mode. As the guy once said, You could do worse.

As you might expect concerning teenage boys, fantasies abound, and these are well imagined, too, given that our crew has not yet experienced sex. The objects of two of the team's affection is Kelly (played nicely by Erin Moriarty, shown at bottom of post), while the parental and/or sibling roles are extremely well handled by Nick Offerman (above, right) and Allison Brie (above, left) and well-enough handled by Megan Mullalley and Marc Evan Jackson.

It is the work of the three leads, however, that makes-or-breaks the movie, and the filmmakers have cast three winners: left to right, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias and Nick Robinson. Basso has the beefy beauty and sweetness of a still virginal male, while Robinson possesses the charm and intelligence that ought eventually to make him good leading man material. But it is Mr. Arias who, more than anyone, owns the film. He is oddball joy incarnate, and while he might not be remotely believable out of this context, he certainly comes through here.

The movie is an almost coming-of-age story, in which, via puppy love and puppy rejection perceived as betrayal, real anger blooms and take its toll, and boys begin their journey to manhood. This, as all else, is handled surprisingly well and turns the tale into another chapter on the road to adulthood. We've all traveled here and so should  identify readily with feeling and understanding. I don't want to overpraise what is basically a well-done genre piece, but I think it's safe to suggest putting The Kings of Summer on your ought-to-see list now.

The movie --from CBS Films and running 95 minutes -- opens today, Friday, May 31, in New York City at the AMC Lincoln Square and Landmark Sunshine; in Los Angeles at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark.  On June 7, you'll find it in opening in another 22 cities. Click here and scroll down to learn which ones.

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