‘The Kings of Summer:’ Those Wontons are Too Big

This is real life. The Kings of Summer, written by Chris Galleta and directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, captures something so real, so true, in this beautifully shot and absurdly hilarious and poignant coming-of-age story.

The set up is kind of classic — best friends Joe and Patrick and a more than a little eccentric kid, Biaggio, long to escape their stifling, grating parents and experience real adventure this summer. Joe finds an idyllic clearing in the woods, and the trio spends the summer building a house and living off the land, a place for them only. They test their manliness, their friendship, and grow and learn along the way. But this fairly hackneyed movie description simply cannot do The Kings of Summer justice.

The boys are great – Nick Robinson plays Joe, a handsome troublemaker who tries a little too hard. Gabriel Basso is so perfect as Patrick, the lumbering ginger with parent-caused hives and a bootie on his broken foot. He’s so real and grounded as the best friend every idealist charmer should have. And Moises Arias is just incomparable as Biaggio. There are no words to describe this kid, except for brilliant. Biaggio is extremely odd, but not just that. Arias infuses so much heart and goodwill into Biaggio that his ridiculous dialogue becomes as endearing as it is straight up funny.

The adult cast plays as a who’s who of “People I Love So Much.” Heavy on UCB folks and including a couple cameos from those involved in The Thrilling Adventure Hour (the greatest old-timey radio show out there today…check it out!), they are all brilliant comedians, and everyone delights in his/her role in a perfect way. Nick Offerman wins again at being ornery yet lovable with a biting wit. Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson are so incredibly unnerving and irritating in the greatest way. Eugene Cordero, Alison Brie, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Thomas Middleditch, and Kumail Nanjini round out an insanely talented cast of improvisers who kill it again and again.

The script feels very improvised, and it’s such a feat to do that so well, to remain consistent with each of their characters, and to get to a place of such meaning in every scene. It’s really amazing to watch, not to mention constantly laugh out loud funny. The humor is absurd but in a way that reveals so much heart and truth, and it’s surprisingly subtle that way. It’s easy to laugh off each exaggerated and improv-ed exchange as extraneous, but none of them are. They each add something meaty and real to the journeys of all of the characters.

In case the unbelievable cast and humor-filled script wasn’t enough to make me adore the movie already (it was), the cinematography is gorgeous; the close-up slo-mo, sun-kissed style makes each moment tangibly magical. The movie captures the dusty rays of suburban summers and the vital brightness of adventure in a way I’ve never seen before. And what’s so much better is that these are seriously beautiful shots that mostly convey something so real and spirited and at the same time, hilarious. The comedy of the script does not get lost in the cinematography, rather the two work together to form a perfect union of heightened reality – one that serves to show us the truth, just simply in better, clearer detail than the naked eye can catch in real life.

The Kings of Summer will not only very likely be my favorite movie of the summer (and it’s the beginning of June), but it’s the best one I’ve seen in a long time. In the movie, the wontons were too big, but nothing else was too anything. It’s a beautiful balance of adventure, heart, and humor. I cried laughing during one scene, and a couple of those tears were because I didn’t want it to end.

Grade: A+

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