Since his mother died and his sister moved away to college, fifteen-year-old Joe (Robinson) has been in a series of running battles with his bitter father (Offerman). When he discovers a hidden glade in the middle of the nearby woods, Joe convinces lifelong buddy Patrick (Brasso), who too suffers from lame-o parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson), to run away from home and build their own – a ramshackle hut where they would live free from parental hassle. Along for the fun is weird local kid, Biaggio (Moises).
Nothing more than nostalgic wish-fulfilment, The Kings Of Summer will appeal to those who has ever assembled, or attempted to assemble, a tree hut and then dreamed of sleeping out in it. These teeny Tyler Durdens (they vow to catch, kill and eat their food) even manage to steal a slide... and then they install it indoors! How cool is that? While there is more than a faint whiff of a don't-treat-me-like-a-kid/I-don't-want-to-grow-up contradictory theme at work, to the movie's credit it doesn't lay it on thick, preferring to concentrate on the disintegration of a once-tight friendship. With the teen newcomers off doing their thing, the schooled Offerman, Mullally, and Jackson bring solid support and their own brand of humour.
Like those 80s movies that wished to remember the 50s with cosy reverence (Stand By Me, Back to the Future, The Book of Love, Mischief), there's a sweet innocence at play here that's hard to dismiss. The Kings of Summer is a welcome break from gross-out teen comedies of late.
The tone of the humour is a little wonky, however, as director Vogt-Roberts, along with first-time writer Chris Galletta, can't seem to decide if the humour should be low-key and character driven or broad and sit-com-ish; either one would have worked, but the two don't go together. Trying too hard to cover all bases, some gags fall flat and Moises Arias, being too much of an oddball, out-quirks himself too many times.
But The Kings Of Summer has buckets and buckets of charm. And there is nothing wrong with nostalgic wish-fulfilment.