Indie Review: The Kings of Summer

thekingsofsummer-posterI almost lost my opportunity to see this movie on the big screen. I was invited to a screening by TCFF a few weeks ago but I couldn’t make it as I wasn’t feeling well. But thankfully, I was able to make it to this press screening and boy, am I glad I did!

This film definitely reminds me of Stand By Me which I saw ages ago. Two best friends Joe & Patrick desperately trying to escape their families and they spend their Summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. The third guy Biaggio, ended up joining them as Joe ‘didn’t know how to get rid of him’ ahah.

I immediately connected with the characters, especially Joe (Nick Robinson) who lives with his overbearing widower dad Frank (the hilarious Nick Offerman). His BFF Patrick (Gabriel Basso) also live with his insufferable parents (Megan Mullally is a hoot as his overprotective mom – oh btw, I just learned today that she & Offerman are real-life married couple!). Both parents are harmless really, but I could see why their um, parenting style drive the kids away from home. And one night after Joe got lost in the woods after a party, with an oddball schoolmate Biaggio in tow, found just the perfect place to escape to.

This movie is billed as a comedy and it’s certainly has some laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s surprisingly heartfelt as well. For all of us who are young at heart, this film is quite relatable and also brings back memories of our youth. The scenes of the three teens trying to survive in the woods and wanting to prove that they’re capable ‘men’ not boys are both moving and funny.

Top: Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias and Nick Robinson

I’m glad to see an indie film that paints an earnest picture of teens and the struggles of adolescence without resorting to something sinister or somber.  I mean, there are dark moments but by no means bleak. It’s also not overtly sexual, which is very refreshing for a teen film (though it is rated R for the foul language). Even the romance storyline is handled quite well here. It’s not frivolous or gratuitous and fits well with the coming-of-age theme of the story.

This is director Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ feature film debut as he did mostly TV work, but I hope he does more movies in the future. This is one of the funniest and refreshingly honest films I’ve seen, boasted by engaging performances and beautiful cinematography that makes you want to book your next vacation camping in the woods!! [If you know me at all, that’s saying a lot as I’m not even an outdoor person]

I love movies with memorable characters, and this film is chock full of them. The younger actors are wonderful, they don’t seem as if they’re acting at all, which is impressive in its own right. I’m especially impressed with 18-year-old Nick Robinson as Joe, and this is also his debut feature film! He’s quite a natural on screen, and you could say he’s the protagonist of the film.


Moises Arias as the quirky Biaggio is a hoot and practically stole every scene he’s in! Those who watch Park & Recreation no doubts would be entertained by Nick Offerman and his deadpan comedic style. His scene with the delivery guy about some large wontons had me in stitches!

I can’t recommend this enough, folks. I hope you get a chance to see this one the big screen or at the very least give it a rent. It’d likely end up in my top 10 of 2013. It’d make an excellent diversion to the big blockbuster Summer movies hitting theaters in the next few months. Great script, performances, scenery and soundtrack — it’s got all the ingredients to make an entertaining film. But mostly, watch it for the funny and engaging story of friendship and family.

This film was nominated for this year’s Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I’d think it might even deserve to win more awards!


Anybody else’s seen this yet? What do you think of this film?

43 thoughts on “Indie Review: The Kings of Summer

    1. If you like Offerman you MUST see this one. He’s naturally hilarious, love him! Hope he does more movies. To me he kind of looks like Garfield or Grumpy cat, ahah!

  1. Aaah great review, Ruth 🙂 Thanks for not spoiling anything. Now I’m more excited to watch it (though I think it’s not gonna happen anytime soon for me 😦 ) Stand by Me is one of my favorite films and I hope this film will deliver the same excitement and heartfelt moments like Stand by Me 😀

    1. Oh no spoiler here or I’d put a big warning 😀 Yeah, too bad indie films are hard to come by in Indo. Btw, I’m gonna read your review of The Act of Killing. That looks very intriguing to me as I grew up being brainwashed about PKI.

    1. Do you have a link to your review? Yeah, solid flick for the whole year I think. I could see this ending up in my top 10 of 2013!

        1. Hey Nick, I tried leaving you a comment a few times but seems like your site ate it 😦 This is what I was going to post on your review:

          GREAT review Nick!! I totally agree that it’s an effective coming-of-age story that’s genuinely funny. That’s rare to see these days. I actually like Nick Robinson’s character with his angst, I somehow sympathize with him, especially regarding his first love. I don’t think of him being unlikable at all, but maybe it’s just me. In fact, I feel that he’s truly the ‘heart’ of the film for me, w/ Biaggio as the comic relief, obviously 😀

        1. Ah I see. Well there’s foul language here so that’s why it’s R rated, but there’s nothing overly racy or violent in it, I mean nothing like what HBO/Showtime has, that’s for sure!

    1. Right on Chris!! I think you’ll enjoy this one. Plus the scenery is sooo gorgeus!

      P.S. Would u upvote this on Reddit when you get a chance 😀 THANK YOU!!!

  2. Ted S.

    I love Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson in Parks & Recreation so I’ll prob give this one a rent. I hope Red Box gets it on Bluray when it comes out, they tend to only carry big movies. I don’t have Netflix anymore and I don’t stream anything so I miss out on these indie movies.

    1. I first saw Offerman on that show too and he’s easily the funniest guy of the bunch! He’s a hoot in this, but it’s not just some silly humor. I like it when comedies actually carries some emotional weight in it, and this one definitely has that.

  3. Good review Ruth. I didn’t love this like everybody else seems to be, but I will admit that it did have me smiling enough by the end. That’s all that you need with a summer movie about adolescence.

    1. Hi ya Fogs! I really think you’d enjoy this one Fogs. I don’t normally like films about teens, well it just doesn’t appeal to me as much as other genres, but I think a good movie is a good movie, and when it’s well-written, it’ll be easy for anyone to enjoy. Hope you do get around to seeing this, the scenery looks beautiful on the big screen too!

  4. Very interesting! I read two reviews of this today. One praised it another felt it was a huge disappointment. I’m anxious to see it. Looks really interesting. Nice review Ruth!

    1. Y’know, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this but I ended up enjoying it very much. Curious to hear what you think after you’ve seen this Keith.

  5. Nice catch, Ruth. In all honesty, there’s a chance I might have overlooked this one. But not now. I’ve added it to my list. Sounds like a great little film and as a big fan of Stand By Me, one that I think I could enjoy quite a bit.

    1. I’m glad I’ve convinced you 😀 I hope people don’t overlook this one, I think it’s a wonderful film about adolescence and friendship, much like Stand By Me. I’m quite impressed by the young cast members.

  6. I’m jealous that you’ve seen this. Glad to hear you liked it so much. I can’t wait. Stand By Me is one of my top 3 films of all-time, and anything about Summer and coming-of-age just fits right into my wheel house.

    1. Hi Shane! It’s been ages since I saw Stand By Me but this one reminds me of that, both are funny and moving coming-of-age tales. I hope this one lives up to your expectations, but I think it will 😀

  7. Glad you loved it Ruth. I’ve been wanting to see it since I saw the trailer, so I’ll definitely check it out if it plays near me.

    1. I hope it opens near you Josh. I was quite surprised by it and it’s just so hilarious! Love the two Nicks in this film, Offerman and the young actor Nick Robinson 🙂

  8. I wasn’t even aware of this one at all until a few days ago and I’ve seen a few reviews of it now, mostly positive ones too. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for this when it hits over here. I could do with a good summer movie so I hope it hits before the weather turns (even) nastier 🙂

    1. Hello Chris! Yeah, I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen. This kind of films tend to get overlooked but I reckon it’s one of the best debut feature I’ve seen so far. I might do a post listing all feature film debuts I’ve been impressed with in the last decade.

      Is it getting cold where you are? We’ve been having a nasty Spring (can’t even call it Spring as it’s so cold) but hopefully we get Summer at least for 3 months!

      1. Sounds like a good feature Ruth, I’d definitely be interested in reading that.

        We’ve actually had about 10 days of really nice weather here but it’s turned horrible again now. We always have about a week or so of sun just before summer and then autumn kicks in early!

  9. Because of its subject matter and how warmly it has been received, I can’t wait to watch this one. It does seem like a very funny and heartwarming story capable of transporting us to our younger, more innocent years.
    Great review Ruth!

  10. Awesome! So glad to read such a positive review of this. I’m a big fan of Nick Offerman — his Q&A session was the only reason I went to see the otherwise mediocre Somebody Up There Likes Me — and it’s always fun to see him paired with his wife. Will try to catch this soon!

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