Here’s a joyous coming-of-age indie film from 2013. It’s about a bunch of lads getting fed up of their parents and taking the summer off to live in the woods.
The Kings of Summer
This project is from writer Chris Galletta. The director was Jordan Vogt-Roberts in his feature film debut. And there were a bunch of upcoming young actors taking the lead roles.
Watching the film, it reminds you of what it was like to be young and carefree. A marvellous gift from cinema, no?
It’s a film about three young lads impatient to get on with adulthood. Which they jump ahead to, in naive fashion, during a long, lazy, hot summer.
The central character is Joe Toy (Nick Robinson). He lives with his single father Frank (Nick Offerman) who’s a bit overbearing.
After becoming massively frustrated one evening, he escapes into the woods and finds an interesting clearing he takes a fancy to.
In the meantime, his best friend Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso) is also losing his mind thanks to his overbearing parents—particularly his mother (Megan Mullally, who’s actually married to Nick Offerman).
Trying escapism through playing too much Street Fighter II Turbo doesn’t work, so he joins Joe out in the woods.
Once they’re joined by oddball kid Biaggio (Moisés Arias). He’s the comedic relief in the film, being a quirky sort.
Kind of like Professional Moron, he’s the lovable weirdo. Yeah? Except our ears don’t stick out like that. And our hair is gone.
The three of them decide to turn the woodland clearing into a makeshift home.
Which is what they duly do, building a wooded house to escape from their parents and other responsibilities.
This is where the cult hit film’s most iconic scene takes place—the three boys out in the woods doing a bit of free-form drumming.
Whilst they get on with messing about in the woods, their parents are worried sick—and the boys appear on local news stations as reported missing.
Meanwhile, Joe invites his friend Kelly (Erin Moriarty) out to visit them. But this creates conflict, as she has a thing for Patrick.
And this leaves young Joe pretty devastated. In fact, such is the issue the pair end up engaging in a bout of fisticuffs. And an angry Joe demands everyone leave him along in his woodland home.
A month passes and he’s still there, running shy of cash. He’s able to hunt and kill a rabbit, but leaving its body in the home attracts a venomous snake.
After he leaves the woodland, Biaggo is picked up by the cops for questioning.
Eventually he’s sent back is back home with his father and asks him if leaving a friend alone means he’s set to spend eternity in Hell.
His father confirms his fears, so Biaggo races to the woods. He finds Joe cornered by the angry snake and attempts to kill it.
However, he’s bitten on the ankle and goes into anaphylactic shock. Turning to Frank, Kelly, and Patrick for help, Joe is able to rush Biaggo to hospital where he’s treated with antivenom.
As their respective parent(s) collect their children from the hospital, the cars pull alongside each other.
And Joe and Patrick jokingly flip each other off, signalling their friends again and all is well.
Biaggo, ultimately, returns to the woodland to live in the house, viewing it as some sort of spiritual enlightenment. The end!
At 96 minutes, it’s an independent film where not much really happens. But then that really makes for some of the greatest films ever—such as Withnail & I.
The Kings of Summer has a simple premise, but one that director Vogt-Roberts injects a great deal of warmth and humour into.
It’s simply a joy to watch—very charming and with excellent performances.
Like taking a step back into your carefree years as a teenager, romping around creating havoc due to a sense of youthful impatience to get on with life.
Really, all we can do is recommend you watch it. Even if you’re sitting on the fence about the idea, just spend the hour and a half enjoying the experience.
As on the other side, seeing as it’s summer (and we all need a bit of a lift right now), you’ll feel all warm and happy inside. The magic of cinema.
A King’s Production
Filming took place in 2012 across Ohio of America. On a budget of $1.5 million, box office returns signal $1.4 million in return.
Factor in rentals and other stuff, we hope it went on to recoup its cash a little bit.
As films like this deserve a lot more coverage than they invariably receive.
Many of the crew have since gone onto much bigger things. Essentially the lead actor for Kings of the Summer, Nick Robinson went on to bag a role in Jurassic World (2013).
The three young guys were actually all 18/19 at the time of the shoot. But looked suitably young enough to get away with being 14/15.
As for the director Vogt-Roberts, he recently took control of that massive King Kong: Skull Island (2017).
Back in 2013 (at least here in England), it seemed impossible to see The Kings of Summer in cinemas. We ended up renting it on DVD from LoveFilm.
Critics like Mark Kermode noted its general lack of availability, which didn’t help the box office returns.
People were calling the BBC film review show complaining that it just wasn’t in many cinemas. What was that madness!?
However, word of mouth has done the film proud. And it now has a solid cult following across the globe. Good!