Review by Tres
So a couple of weeks ago I was asked to review a highly awarded indie film: Kings of Summer.
It received the Audience Award from the Dallas Film Festival, the Overlooked Film of the Year from PFCS, and nominations at festivals for Best Youth Lead, Grand Jury Prize, Best Youth Film, Best Supporting Youth, and Breakthrough Performance Behind the Camera.
I usually shy away from reviewing “R” rated movies, but since this was a request by a follower of our Blog here at LTBM, I am obliging the request. The seller was his statement, “It’s like our Stand By Me (a movie I have enjoyed for many years) for today’s age group.”
The cast: Nick Robinson (Melissa & Joey), Gabriel Basso (Super 8 and Alabama Moon), Moises Arias (Nacho Libre, Ender’s Game, and Hannah Montana), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation and 21 Jump Street), Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), and Erin Moriarty (The Watch and Red Widow)
Plot: Parent issues, recuperating after the loss of a parent, girl trouble, best friend struggles, acceptance, standing on your own, learning to build something, etc.
In the movie you have Joe (Nick Robinson) who has an explosive relationship with his father, Frank (Nick Offerman). Joe’s mother has passed, Frank is miserable, Joe is miserable, and the two of them are at each other all the time. Frank has expectations, such as playing Monopoly as a family and picking tools up from the driveway, which compounded with harshness and being cursed at sends Joe over the edge. Frank has two emotions throughout 95% of the movie, low-keyed sarcasm or explosive harshness. The other thing that Joe deals with is his infatuation with a girl, Kelly (Erin Moriarty) that is kind and friendly to him.
Patrick (Gabriel Basso) is Joe’s best friend and has been for years. Patrick has the opposite parents to Joe. His dad and mom (Megan Mullally) are all rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies. They never speak harshly to Patrick. However, they never give him “breathing room” either. They annoy him so much, he develops a health issue even.
The third character is Blaggio (Moises Arias). I have to tell you, this character stole the movie away from everyone else in my opinion. I have watched Moises Arias grow up since his days on Hannah Montana (BECAUSE of my 4 children… NOT because I choose to watch it.) This character is fantastic. He shows up at a party, attaches himself to Joe, and he simply doesn’t leave. Patrick even asks Joe, “Why is he here?” Joe replies something like, “He’s been with me since the party. I’m afraid to tell him to leave. I don’t know what he’s capable of. ”
Joe and Patrick, tired of their parents, run away. They go to this field and wooded area and begin to build a house. Not sure exactly what they are doing, they build quite a suitable place, by using scraps found in the dumpsters at build sites, tools and materials from other people and businesses [we’ll say borrowed], and even things “borrowed” from neighbors. They have the time of their lives. They are free men. They build. They hunt for food. They play in the dirt. They bathe when they want to. They sleep when they wish. Life as an independent teen is fantastic. Until…
Joe cannot get Kelly out of his mind. He returns to town and brings her to camp. What happens next tries the bond between two best friends that are like brothers. Kelly cares about Joe. However, she likes Patrick. Things begin to fall apart. A fight happens. Joe ends up alone in their house with nothing to eat. Then…
Wait, I won’t give you the ending. If you want to know, you’ll have to rent it.
However, if we look at the Christian implications that are portrayed, I can’t help but see how God tries so hard to prevent us from having life issues if we only heed his words.
Joe and Patrick struggle so much with their parents. Those of us who aren’t too old, we remember what it was like to get really frustrated with our parents. Those of us who are parents of teens know what it is like for our children to be frustrated with us. God’s Word has an answer for this frustration. Ephesians 6:1 states, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” The same sentiment is repeated in Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.”
If we think about all the times we were frustrated with our parents as teens, how many times was it… (for some of you) is it… because they asked us to do something that we didn’t want to do, so we rebelled? How many times did we talk back because our parents just didn’t understand us? How many times did we say our parents were just “old-fashioned”? How many times was it over what the parent said was or wasn’t appropriate attire?
If in every situation we stopped our moths and our attitudes and let God’s Word guide us and simply did as our parents asked or expected, how many problems would there have been? Teens today, ask us adults. When I was a teen my parents didn’t know much of anything. However, at 42 and a parent to 2 teens and 2 pre-teens, I realize how smart my parents actually were.
Now some will say, as the case with Frank in Kings of Summer, that parents try to frustrate their children. As a school teacher, U can tell you I have seen this. God’s Word speaks to us about this as well. Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.” If, as a parent, we learn to talk to our children instead of just snapping at them or simply talking at them, we can get much further. [In the fashion of honesty, I am guilty of this. When my stress level is up, I forget to talk to them and nurture them. Still working on it.]
My heart was warmed at the acceptance of Blaggio. As a young person I struggled with ADHD before it had a label. Being constantly on the move and having little focus led me to the office many times. Most students don’t want to be friends with a “trouble maker”. It’s the odd children that are often excluded and over-looked in society. Blaggio is one of those odd students. He doesn’t really know how to interact with people, he’s often just suddenly there, he’s quirky , and he’s just weird. I adored him! I appreciated how the writers and directors showed Joe and Patrick simply absorbing him into their group. It didn’t need to be discussed. It wasn’t an argument. He was simply attached to Joe after the party and they allowed him to be and accepted him for who he was. God’s Word tells us to “ be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4:32) I know my parents taught me as a young man the “Golden Rule” which is echoed in Luke 6:31, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
Imagine what our world would be like if everyone was simply kind and treated everyone as they would want to be treated. Bullying and teen suicides which are plaguing our country would be gone over night.
Check out the trailer.
I will be honest. I struggled from the beginning with this movie because the profanity starts at the beginning and continues throughout the whole movie. The other issue shows a teen alcohol, including a keg, party and more teen drinking throughout. If I could take these two aspects out of the movie, it would get higher rankings from me. These 2 aspects are never addressed as issues or problems, but rather a way of acceptable teenage life. On the contrary, parent issues, girl trouble, wilderness exploring, seeking manhood, and bonding of friends are all great issues that our teens, and still some adults, struggle with today. My fear is though, that if a teen sits to watch this, a concept that they will walk away with is that all teens cuss and drink alcohol. That’s simply not true. Not all adults even choose to do them.
Those two aspects took away from the movie for me and reduced its score.
If I could find a copy without the language and alcohol, this would be a 4 for me. However, those things just made it grittier and darker than it needed to be.