Premiering at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival as 'Toy's House', Jordan Vogt-Roberts's debut feature film is now known as 'The Kings Of Summer' - a title more appropriately capturing the heady sentiments of its central teenage trio. 'The Kings Of Summer' reflects classic coming-of-age offerings like 'Stand By Me' and 'The Goonies', while adding its own quirky modern take on growing up.
In a small Ohio town, Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (Moises Arias) choose to spend their summer building their own house in the woodland - away from overbearing parents, and the other usual issues that blight teenagers. Joe and Patrick thrive in their new and uninhibited environment, while it's never quite clear what oddball Biaggio is thinking. The camaraderie between the trio swells before crashing spectacularly, as their new lives unravel.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has a comedic pedigree having been involved in the 'Funny Or Die Presents...' series, and he brings his strong sense of humour to 'The Kings Of Summer'. Indeed, comedy runs through much of the cast with names like Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, and Megan Mulally all contributing to the film's hilarious nature. Moises Arias, in particular, deserves praise for the solemn eccentricity he brings to Biaggio - the type of character that would be sidelined, or worse yet, ridiculed in other films.
Instead, we revel in Biaggio's antics, which are a welcome respite from the romantic sub-plot that unsurprisingly appears. This romance does result in one of the film's most powerful scenes - a sobering moment as one character's mood changes instantly from joy to sadness. The film falters somewhat as it attempts to inject drama into its final third but the rollicking humour and the preceding free-spirited nature are wonderfully charming and resonant.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts delivers Chris Galleta's witty script with a deft touch that belies his relative lack of experience. Equally, the young actors at the centre of the piece perform admirably, embodying the film's angst with an endearing light-heartedness. 'The Kings Of Summer' is a magical, uplifting coming-of-age comedy.
'The Kings Of Summer' is premiering in the UK at Sundance London festival, find more info and purchase tickets at sundance-london.com.