The worst part about being a kid is the realization that one day you'll be an adult.
Your only responsibilities are cleaning your room (throwing everything under the bed), eating your vegetables (feeding them to the dog), and getting your homework done (copying from a friend just before class). And then there are the teen years, when you think parents are the worst and want to just run away and live like a king under your own roof. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts explores this in The Kings of Summer, an unforgettable coming-of-age comedy that's sweet, witty, and brings back the joys of being young and full of life.
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) lives with his father, Frank (Nick Offerman). They don't like each other too much. In fact, Joe calls the police every time they argue just to piss off Papa Toy. And it really, really does. Joe's best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) also doesn't like his parents too much. His flighty mom (the very animated Megan Mullally) nags and is so overbearing, he compares her to Street Fighter II's Blanka. Everything that comes out of her mouth is, "gargle, gargle do this," and "gargle gargle do that." It's jargon speech for overbearing mothers.
So like any young boys who want to live like kings, they run away and build a house in the middle of some woods where no one can find them. Their plan is to live there forever and by their own rules, which mainly consist of one thing: Having fun. Of course, we adults know it's just not possible, and all the parents set out to find their boys while they live out their fantasy of rebellious warriors. Hilarity ensues, and it ensues so often your face will hurt.
A third boy joins the "no adults allowed" house named Biaggio, played by Moises Arias, a breakout star at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Biaggio is the incredibly creepy-but-loyal friend who will take a poisonous snake bite in the leg for you. He reminds me of Dobby from Harry Potter -- a strange character with even stranger humor, but very loyal. Arias' Biaggio is unmistakably the funniest part of this film; the movie just wouldn't work without him. Arias effectively delivers punchlines in a physical way that only works for certain people. He was born to play this role and I can't wait to see what he brings to the table when he's older. This kid's got spunk.
It takes a skilled writer to write good comedy, and a punctual actor to nail those lines in a fashion nobody else can. Chris Galletta's screenplay was destined for Nick Offerman's presence. There will always be a little of Ron Swanson (his character on TV's Parks and Recreation) wherever Offerman goes, but he can still separate himself from that character, and appear normal while nailing punchlines in the most emotionless and sharp manner better than anyone else in the industry.
The Kings of Summer is the funniest movie of the year, and a large part of that is due to Offerman and his offbeat, grumpy-yet-charming style of comedy. I'm certain I will not laugh as hard at any movie this year as I did when watching The Kings of Summer. (The Way, Way Back, however, came dangerously close). This movie has it all -- charm, laughs, and wit. It captures what it's like to be young and dream big, big, big.
Review originally published in different form during the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013, when the film was titled Toy's House. The Kings of Summer opens in select theaters in the U.S. on Friday, May 31. Visit the official site for more information.