While it seems strange to see films that already have a distributor and deal in place to show up at a film festival, deadCENTER is proving to be an exception to the rule. Two years ago, they were able to bring the Kings of Leon documentary to the event, and last year James Marsden’s Robot and Frank made a nice appearance. This year is no different as the Sundance hit film The Kings of Summer screened at the festival in the brand new Devon Auditorium.
The Kings of Summer screened at deadCENTER thanks largely to stars Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, both Oklahoma natives.
The story follows the summer of three boys (Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias) who run away from home to a cleared area in the woods where they dream of building a house, living off the wilderness, and becoming men.
Joe is the only child remaining at home with his widowed father (Offerman), while his sister has escaped and understands his pain, but not enough to let him come live with her (that would make their dad visit her more, something she dreads). John’s dad has become miserable, and as a result, his misery spreads to John, who himself is suffering from depression after losing his mom. It is a life that he wants desperately to escape from.
Patrick has a different pain in his home life, as his parents are hippies who seem to think they are living within the world of Leave it to Beaver and treat him, at all times, with kid’s gloves, almost smothering him with attention. Biaggio is a strange kid that neither knows, but tags along with them anyway, implementing himself into their lives. For a mainstream comparison, Biaggio is this movie’s McLovin – except twice as bizarre and unforgettable.
The movie has a great story, and a great cast, but what The Kings of Summer has going in spades is its humor. There were moments in the screening where the audience was laughing so hard that it was easy to miss the next lines. The humor was usually random and very off-the-wall, and the best lines came from Nick Offerman himself. While playing a depressed miserable father who can’t seem to connect with his son at all, Offerman is nevertheless able to retain his impeccable comic timing throughout his scenes. Through all is character’s pain and misery, he always makes the audience laugh with his deadpan humor. While Patrick’s parents grow old after a while, they also share some very funny lines. Finally, there is a police officer who steals every scene he is in.
While great humor can carry a movie on its own, The Kings of Summer is also a very smart, and at times, touching coming-of-age story. The main center of this film lies around the friendship between Joe and Patrick, and the two young actors are able to carry their roles perfectly. There are moments of the movie that remain unoriginal (a girl comes between their friendship, Joe is becoming his father), there is also just enough to keep it an enjoyable and overall original movie nonetheless.
One area the filmmakers have to be commended is by not ending the movie with a happy, generic ending. They leave us with hope, which is important in a movie that plays as a comedy. However, they also end it with an ambiguous conclusion, one that tells you things should be okay, but that nothing will ever be the same again. It is an end that leaves you smiling, without having to cheat a sappy ending.
At the end of the day, The Kings of Summer is a near perfect indie comedy, remaining funnier than most while also retaining its heart. Believe the Sundance hype, The Kings of Summer is a fantastic movie that is well worth your time