Runs Away from Home
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Just this weekend my mother was reminding me how my two cousins and I used to disappear for weeks at a time during the summer, camping out and living off the land. Alone in the woods, we were the masters of our fate, free from the oversight of bothersome grownups.
That theme permeates “The Kings of Summer,” the new indie film that’s camping out at the Tropic Cinema.
In it, three teenage friends declare their independence by spending the summer building a tree house in the woods. Preparation for running away from home.
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) is frustrated by the stern overcompensation of his single father. He’s joined by his pal Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and a weirdo named Biaggio (Moisés Arias) in this awkward quest for freedom.
After boning up on survival techniques at the library, the trio draws up floor plans for the tree house, gathers boards and nails, and clandestinely builds it. Then one night they steal away from their respective homes and move in.
The police think the boys have been kidnapped. Their parents go through recriminations. “I think I’ve broken my son,” confesses Joe’s dad.
Now on their own, the boys have trouble adjusting to self-rule. Joe can’t take responsibility for his bad behavior. Despite many speeches about the meaning of masculinity, Joe’s judgmental attitude is mindful of his father’s emotional bullying.
Patrick is more comfortable with himself, gentle and funny. A girl that Joe has a crush on seems more interested in Patrick. Tensions mount.
A newcomer, Biaggio remains remote and shy, a natural outcast. His deadpan delivery of non-sequiturs adds humor to the film. These witticisms are supplemented by the comic cops (Mary Lynn Rajskub and Thomas Middleditch) along with Patrick’s cooing parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson).
Think “Swiss Family Robinson” meets “Moonlight Kingdom.” A sweet coming-of-age film, but it does not match the stylish telling of that Wes Anderson masterpiece. Even so, it has its magical, surreal moments.
You may recognize Nick Robinson as a co-star on the ABC sitcom “Melissa & Joey.” Gabriel Basso has appeared in movies like “Super 8.” And geeky Moisés Arias is best known for a reoccurring role on TV’s “Hannah Montana.”
The screenplay by Chris Galletta was originally titled Toy’s House.
Newbie director Jordan Vogt-Roberts seems to have taken the blueprint for “Moonrise Kingdom,” some leftover boards from “Stand By Me,” framing from “Mud,” and a few nails used by John Hughes to construct this film. Perhaps that’s what makes Toy’s House seem a bit like the House That Jack Built.