Sitcoms, especially since Seinfeld, have a way of getting audiences to root for jerks. The Kings of Summer attempts to pull off the same narrative trick by getting us to mistake 15-year-old protagonist, Joe (Nick Robinson), for a scamp instead of a sullen little shit, even when he calls his widower dad's girlfriend a "spider woman you found in the gutter." Joe thinks his gruff, sarcastic father (Nick Offerman, playing a less noble variation of Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson) is totally ruining his life, so he moves into a fantasy cabin-- complete with a loft and air hockey table-- with his athletic best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and a nonsense-spouting ethnic cartoon named Biaggio (Moises Arias)-- one of the two dark-skinned, asexual characters the film prods us to laugh at. To clinch all the Urkel-era clichés, Joe and Patrick run away by telling their parents they're sleeping over at each other's house. For a while, the teenagers live in a Boys' Life paradise, jumping into lakes, dueling with swords, and sneaking off to Boston Market to retrieve dinner. But their idyll evaporates with the arrival of a popular blond girl (Erin Moriarty)-- do teenage boys in movies ever fall for anyone else?-- who unwittingly pits Joe and Patrick against each other. Joe’s conflicts with his friend and father lead to a tense, funny, mettle-testing climax, but the ending is more cornball than Tony Danza. The film's grown-up world-- populated by the tart, shticky likes of Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, and Mary Lynn Rajskub-- a lot more interesting than its pimple-faced counterpart.
Jordan Vogt-RobertsAlison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Moises Arias, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Erin Moriarty, Nick Robinson, Angela Trimbur, Gabriel BassoChris GallettaTyler Davidson, Peter Saraf, John HodgesCBS Films