Life is tough for teenaged boys! The hot girls all have older boyfriends. And parents are so annoying. Sheesh! But an idyllic summer in the woods, where a guy can just be a guy and rule his world as is the proper state of man, might just be the cure. Imagine Into the Wild as seen through the eyes of Funny or Die, and that’s The Kings of Summer. Best friends Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso: Super 8) retreat to the woods — inexplicably joined by the deeply odd Biaggio (Moises Arias: Astro Boy) — build a ramshackle little house, and run away from civilization, like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, only with Monopoly, and fast food, because this is suburbia and civilization is only just on the other side of the creek. Screenwriter Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (who actually is a Funny or Die vet) mash a heightened sense of the absurd rather awkwardly up against arty pastoral — manly adolescent bonding such as pissing together into the creek and punching one another, happens in Malick-esque slo-mo — and the mock-seriousness of the endeavor comes across as unpleasantly snide. The humor works, for the most part: Nick Offerman (We’re the Millers), as Joe’s single father, and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Julie & Julia), as the cop in charge of searching for the runaways, are very funny, and Arias steals the show as perhaps the weirdest teen character I’ve ever encountered on film. But tucked into all the preposterous quirk is straight-up drama that we’re meant to take as authentic moments of Growing Up and Readjusting Their Perception for Patrick and Joe, and they’re rather less plausible than they might otherwise have been if they weren’t sitting next to random complaints about the size of Chinese-takeout dumplings.
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