Freshman year of high school has just ended for Patrick (Gabriel Basso) who isn’t looking forward to spending the summer under the same roof as his helicopter parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson), given their monitoring his every move and their merciless teasing about his raging hormones. The situation’s even worse for Joe (Nick Robinson) whose widowed father’s (Nick Offerman) way of grieving involves belittling and grounding him at the drop of a hat.
One night at a keg party, the best friends come up with a viable solution to their predicament when they discover a clearing in the middle of the forest. Why not build themselves a house out in the woods where they will finally be free from the abuse and control of meddling adults?
Swearing each other to secrecy, the malcontents hatch an impromptu plan to live off the land. And they are joined in the clandestine endeavor by classmate Biaggio (Moises Arias), a mysterious weirdo wiling to tag along and utter an occasional, odd non sequitur.
Next thing you know, they’re building a shack out of materials found on a construction lot, and also foraging for food by diving into a dumpster behind a restaurant. Meanwhile, their worried folks are calling the cops, convinced the missing boys must have been kidnapped.
That is the absorbing point of departure of “The Kings of Summer,” a quirky, coming-of-age comedy marking the magnificent directorial debut of Jordan Vogt-Roberts. His laugh-a-minute adventure is reminiscent of some of the best of the rebellious adolescent genre, ala “Stand by Me” (1986), “Superbad” (2007), “Ghost World” (2001), “Super 8” (2011) and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986).
The picture’s clever script by first-timer Chris Galletta is laced with lots of hilarious scenes such as when Biaggio attempts to throw the police off their trail with a ransom note from the fictitious “Jamal Colorado” inspired by a combining a black first name with one of the 50 states. But human oddity Biaggio is basically around to provide intermittent comic relief.
At heart, the movie is about the intrepid trio’s struggle to survive while eluding the frantic search party. The plot thickens upon the sudden arrival of Kelly (Erin Moriarty) at the lad’s lair, a cutie pie Joe’s interested in dating.
Will the fetching femme fatale prove to be the boys’ undoing? Or will their bond remain intact? No spoilers here. Suffice to say that between a host of memorable performances by a cast of relative newcomers, and a haunting, grungy score by Ryan Miller, “The Kings of Summer” is a bona fide sleeper not to be missed.