The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer

  • There is a great movie in here somewhere. It isn’t anywhere as near the surface as in The Spectacular Now. Nor even as in The Way, Way Back, but it is there, lurking, always promising to come forth and then never quite doing so.
  • Nick Robinson as Joe and Nick Offerman as Joe’s father, Frank, are both very good. Gabriel Basso as Patrick is even better. Basso gives Patrick such vulnerability, such empathy, such care-free concern that it is easy to see why Kelly (Erin Moriarty) picks him over Joe.
  • In fact, all of the performances are good to great. They carry this film, from start to finish. The actors make this one entertaining and hide the script’s flaws.
  • As does the director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who finds compelling visuals and wisely speeds us through plot-based montages so as to spend more time in character moments.
  • And yet. The script is flawed. Very. To start, Kelly feels like naught more than a prop/challenge/prize. She is not a personality, much less a person – she is a set piece, whose only purpose is to foil Joe. Erin Moriarty does fine work with the role, but the role is not good.
  • I’ll extend that point, actually. Joe, Patrick, Frank and Joe’s sister, Heather (Alison Brie), feel like real people. Each of the four is a bit underdeveloped (especially Frank), but it is easy to see real people having the feelings and motivations these characters have. The rest of the characters, however, do not feel authentic. The others, most especially Biaggio (Moises Arias) and Patrick’s parents, are caricatures, or worse. Their only real purpose is to make us laugh, but because they lack genuine personality and carry limited narrative weight, they only occasionally do so.
  • There are some very funny moments here, but those moments are not launching points for growth. Instead, the humor is surface level, as with Frank accosting a delivery person. Funny. But how much more powerful might such scenes have been if the script turned the funny into something meaningful, as The Way, Way Back does?
  • Furthermore, the script is too literal in communicating theme. Every character, almost, has a turn telling us exactly what the film is about, which undermines, to some extent, the message. As does the fact that none of the characters seem to change all that much. The characters come back together, but we don’t get the sense that they learn their lesson.
  • An interesting premise, excellent performances and clever directorial choices make this one easy to watch and mostly entertaining throughout, but a flawed script holds it back.
  • Final Grade: C-

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