“The Kings of Summer,” which debuted earlier this year as “Toy’s House” at the Sundance Film Festival, turns a predictable story line into an unexpectedly enjoyable film. High school best friends Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and their eccentric companion Biaggio (Moises Arias), run away from home and build a house in the woods. The audience is invited to briefly suspend its disbelief when the three boys miraculously piece together a large and sturdy structure, but within this mildly fantastical framework, the film offers an honest and viciously witty take on the fits, starts, and struggles of young adulthood.
The screenplay is engaging and amusing, if not imaginative. Close friendships are tested; sour family bonds are (partially) mended; a teenage romance turns into a love triangle. The obligatory overbearing parents deliver some of the best humor in the movie, thanks in particular to the famous deadpan of Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation.”
Some of the most enjoyable moments of the film are found in montages of the boys romping through the woods, playing drums with sticks on a rusty pipe, chopping a watermelon in mid-air, and diving off the side of a rock into a pond. Beautiful cinematography combines with excellent music and editing to give the scenes an almost enchanting quality. These montages invitingly conjure the feelings of escape and freedom that motivate teenage rebellion.
A classic coming-of-age film, “Kings of Summer” succeeds as a genre piece and excels thanks to its lovely photography and delightfully surprising humor. It is a feel-good movie for a summer night, well worth seeing.