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Kings of Summer, The


Stars: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Erin Moriarty, Eugene Cordero, Gillian Vigman, Marc Evan Jackson

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

My heart sank when I saw ‘CBS Films’ in the credits. I assumed this was a bland made-for-television movie destined to provide painless sanitized-for-the-small-screen afternoon viewing on television.

Happily, I was wrong. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, screenwriter Chris Galletter and a perfect cast deliver a warm, charming and genuinely funny coming-of-age comedy that is both credible and frequently and entertainingly off-centre.

The key characters are teenage friends Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and happily eccentric Moises Arias who stake their claim to independence by building a makeshift house deep in the woods and then going to live there, free of parental interference, particularly in the case of Robinson who resents his widowed single father Nick Offerman’s latest romance and does not like being bossed around by his dad. Basso, too, is happy to escape the loving surveillance of his clinging parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson). Arias is simply weird.

At first everything is fine. There’s a fast food joint within walking distance and the local police are so comically inept it seems probable they might have problems finding their own headquarters. A sylvan paradise is created – until Erin Moriarty, Robinson’s former crush, arrives at the house and becomes the cuckoo in the nest when she falls for Basso…

In one sense, The Kings of Summer exists in its own universe that, while perfectly credible on its own terms, nevertheless seems cleverly created and could only exist on screen. Fortunately, while there are certainly elements of whimsy in the comic situation, witty dialogue and endearing characters keep you smiling when you’re not laughing out loud, while the performances – teens and adults alike – make the most of the material.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: StudioCanal (CBC Films). Colour.
15 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 20 Aug 2013