Sunday, December 22, 2013

Movies: The Kings of Summer ('Best of 2013' List)

In The Kings of Summer, Joe, played by Nick Robinson, and his best friend Patrick, played by Gabriel Basso, are on the cusp of finishing high school, and are fed up with their mostly harmless but often annoying parents. This particular summer, the two of them decide to run away from home, off to live in woods indefinitely, doing whatever they want without the concerns of the adult world encroaching on their freedom. On their way, they encounter Biaggio, played by Moises Arias, a peculiar but endearing little weirdo who joins their ranks and becomes one of the three "kings of summer".

I've grown tired of big budget comedies that amount to little more than famous comedic actors getting together and lazily churning out whatever underwritten , high-concept, improvisational mishmash they can that will keep them employed and earn them a fat paycheque (and ultimately waste my time as a viewer -- This Is the End, for example). That they are mostly unfunny just underscores the problem.

The Kings of Summer knows that the funniest moments come from a combination of strong story and fleshed-out characters, and how those two things intersect in crazy and interesting ways. It also knows that often the funniest moments are the truest (shout out to The Untouchables). It doesn't avoid broader comedy (see Biaggio, or as a better example Patrick's parents, played by Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson, who are just-this-side of cartoons, but not off-puttingly so), but it also doesn't pander.

One unfortunate coincidence about the movie is that it has a climactic event that is almost identical to the climactic event that happens in another, better movie that I'm also listing as one of the 'Best of 2013' entries. A minor quibble. I won't mention what the event is or which other film uses it, to avoid spoilers.

Other greatness:
  • The opening scene, pictured above. You had me at hello, basically.
  • Eugene Cordero as Colin, Joe's older-sister's super-nice boyfriend, and his eager-to-please interactions with Joe's dad Frank, played by Nick Offerman, who frankly couldn't give a shit.
  • The post-credits scene. It shows one character in a different light, and if ever there were to be a sequel, this scene indicates that it might be in a different genre of films entirely. It got a big, deserved laugh from me.

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