It’s an impulse that any current (or former) teenager can relate to: Unable to tolerate another night under their parents’ roofs, high schoolers Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso), along with oddball hanger-on Biaggio (Moises Arias), steal away during summer break to build a home of their own in the woods. Their ramshackle yet surprisingly deluxe fort—complete with a sleeping loft and Porta-Potty front door—witnesses both personal discovery (boys become men) and much mucking about (halving watermelons with machetes in slow motion). But paradise is lost when their collective object of desire stops by, making rivals of the best buds and auguring a harsh return to suburban society.
Eager to please and easy on the eyes, The Kings of Summer sails right down the middle, safely tacking between sitcom setups and grandiose MGMT-scored montages without forming its own distinctive feel. Instead of giving his protagonists seething grudges and private tragedies that might send an actual adolescent into exile, first-timer Jordan Vogt-Roberts (directing a script by Chris Galletta) gives us generically likable lads retreating from no greater indignity than overattentive parents. (As Joe’s brutally blunt dad, Parks and Recreations’ Nick Offerman gets all the good lines and at least hints at real feeling.) Such low stakes—they don’t even skip school—make the boys’ disappearance seem less like rebellion than a spasm of bored entitlement.
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