The Kings of Summer
The exact origins of this feature debut from writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts are unclear, but it sure feels like a promising short film stretched to feature length through too many Sundance Film Festival workshops and zealously music-supervised slo-mo scenes of teen boys at play in nature. At stake is the coming-of-age that occurs when three sweet young dudes—attractive protagonist Joe (Nick Robinson), best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and weirdo hanger-on Biaggio (Moises Arias)—run away from their glibly oppressive suburban Midwestern homes to build a makeshift house in the woods. A peculiar synthesis of Spielbergian sincerity and Wes Andersonian indie quirk ensues, with the likable central trio needing a shapelier story or a more original narrative vision. Presided over from its periphery by Megan Mullally as Patrick's overprotective, oddball mom and Nick Offerman as Joe's melancholy-widower dad, this bid for arthouse approval sometimes feels so stiflingly familiar that you might prefer to take your chances in the unspoiled forest instead.