The Kings of Summer

Year: 2013
Production Co: Big Beach Films
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writer: Chris Galletta
Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Erin Moriarty, Alison Brie

The only reason to watch this movie is the same reason you'd watch Bad Taste before Lord of the Rings or Following before Batman Begins – to see where a unique and major talent has come from.

I loved Kong: Skull Island. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts gave it more personality than we had any right to hope from a giant monster movie. Where, as you'll want The Kings of Summer to answer, did that film geek-friendly, striking visual sense come from?

It was obviously part of Vogt-Roberts' toolset buried somewhere deeper because while there's a little bit of visual flourish here, it's much more a Sundance-flaboured coming of age drama than a great visual treat (or even a great film).

Teenager Joe (Nick Robindon) can't get along with his Dad Frank (Nick Offerman) and his Dad's irritating new girlfriend, the only respite he gets is when his grown up sister Heather (Alison Brie) comes home to visit, but that's not nearly often enough.

His best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is stifled by his own parents, fussy do-gooders who smother him with care and affection and drive him to distraction. One night where nothing in the house goes right, Joe runs off into the nearby woods, finding a clearing and accouncing later to Patrick that they're going to emancipate themselves from parents, rules and responsibilities, building a house in the clearing and living free in the woods forever.

They're accompanied by another kid from school in the form of the very weird comic sidekick Biaggio, who they never really intend to invite into their new world but who's loyalty and firece belief in the idea mean they can't even begin to talk him out of it.

The boys are having a grand old time while their parents get more frantic and the police search goes on, but (and here's where you've seen the idea plenty of times before), love intervenes and teaches them that life is never going to be as simple as they want it to be.

It's already obvious that Joe has a thing for schoolmate Kelly (Erin Moriarty), and when the bouys get in touch with their friends and invite them to dinnr parties and get togethers at the hideaway, Joe's assuming he and Kelly will hook up, crushed instead to realise she and Patrick have a thing for each other.

It decisively destroys the calm in the makeshift house, Joe turning on Patick and driving both he and Biaggio away and deciding to live by himself, even if he has to turn feral to do it. The crunch comes when – in a seeming parable about the loss of innocence – Joe is confronted by a snake in the house but manages to calm himself enough so it doesn't attack him, even slowing down his own heartbeat. But Kelly, concerned about Joe's wellbeing, tells his Dad where he is, and Frank (and Biaggio) arrive in the nick of time.

It's sweetly enough drawn even if it's nothing really new, but if you want to see where Vogt-Roberts' talents as a filmmaker really shine, just start with Kong: Skull Island. This feels like an inexpensive calling card he was given to do just to show he knew how to point a camera.

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