What’s offered by The Kings of Summer is a premise that could very well be so much more than what it presents on the screen because it has a pleasant idea going for it. Yet what glares from start to finish is the film’s lack of originality. While I’m not one to deny that the film is sporadically entertaining from time to time, the emotional detachment to which I had felt from the main characters hindered any sort of enjoyment to the film as a whole. That’s among many problems to which The Kings of Summer presents, it’s a film that so desperately wants the viewers to relate with the protagonists’ desire for freedom yet what we are offered is something that just fails at delivering the simple message it wishes to present.
Going further into this issue, instead of finding myself building any sort of connection with the protagonists, I found them to be insufferably obnoxious caricatures whom we never learn much about other than their desire from freedom. It’s a much worse case scenario when these characters are just flat out uninteresting and as a result, The Kings of Summer ends up becoming more of a chore to sit through. Highlighted is the lack of sympathy to which these characters even carry (the worst offender probably being Joe’s dreams of his own demanding father failing at capturing him and resulting to a comedic image of death), as a want for freedom is one thing to which I understand relating with, but the exaggerated pictures to which have been written here are rather ludicrous in their delivery. Soon enough, their actions fade away because they simply are not memorable figures.
The nature of our protagonists is among the many flaws obstructing The Kings of Summer from reaching its goal but the easiest one to note is just the fact the subplot which involves Joe’s parents and their search for him is far more interesting than the actual premise. Given how the supporting cast in general, whether it be Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, or Alison Brie, seems to be more sympathetic in spite of the credible efforts from the three leads, I simply cannot help but find myself connecting with them much more than I did with the protagonists. You can already look at the stupidity of the police officers and from there it would be much easier to note that their story is far more interesting than that of the leading characters who are supposed to be the center of our attention. For these moments alone, I was entertained and ultimately they save the film from becoming outright unbearable.
In spite of this, the film’s intention with capturing the freedom to which one has experienced within their childhood is certainly where The Kings of Summer finds more admirable aspects within itself, but it’s such a shame that everything had to be so heavily bogged down by how we have artificial caricatures as protagonists and the film’s attempts at feeling genuine do not land at all. It certainly does not help too when we also come to consider the fact that Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which is distinctively quirkier especially in terms of style, has come within the previous year and the emotions presented there end up creating the impact to which The Kings of Summer wished to achieve. Both films have an intent to capture the vibe of childhood but The Kings of Summer can’t help but feel as if it is relying upon what Moonrise Kingdom created albeit erasing the quirks that make said film work.
Moments of dialogue, for how intelligently it is written, find themselves hindered by a glaringly distracting style arising from the editing. Although I’m not to deny that certain shots carry a visual appeal whether it be from the pipe drumming or the montages coming then and there, many of these occurrences in which the film has successfully grabbed our own attention feel rather slight. The Kings of Summer knows what it wants to be about, but it ends up getting consumed in the visual style that almost resembles that of a music video and thus only accomplishes half of its goal for it evidently finds itself distracted – a fault of first-time director Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
For how much more it could have been, it’s a shame that The Kings of Summer never was willing to go that far. It is clear already why such a film would be the favourite of the Sundance Film Festival, and knowing the hit-or-miss track record which they carry, it sadly finds itself to be a miss. It’s better than a number of their usual choices for favourites but unfortunately the bar is not so high and thus, the statement means very little. When coming to consider the fact that Moonrise Kingdom had come out within the previous year, the feeling of being derivative runs through the head and in turn, results in The Kings of Summer finding itself falling flat. This could have been much more given the idea it carries but within no time, it fades away.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via CBS Films.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenplay by Chris Galletta
Produced by Tyler Davidson, Peter Saraf, John Hodges
Starring Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moisés Arias, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally
Release Year: 2013
Running Time: 95 minutes