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"The Kings of Summer": Spielberg Meets Wes Anderson 

Wednesday, Jun 5 2013

The exact origins of this feature debut from writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts are unclear, but it sure captures the vibe of a promising short film awkwardly stretched to feature length through too many Sundance workshops and zealously music-supervised slo-mo scenes of teen boys at play in nature. At stake, at least theoretically, is the coming-of-age that occurs when three sweet young dudes — attractive protagonist Joe (Nick Robinson), best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and weirdo hanger-on Biaggio (Moises Arias) — run away from their glibly oppressive suburban Midwestern homes to build a makeshift house in the woods. A peculiar synthesis of Spielbergian sincerity and Andersonian indie quirk ensues, not wrongly presuming the common ground of adolescent-male wistfulness. The central trio is easy to like, but they could use a shapelier story or a more original narrative vision. As Kelly, the girl who inevitably comes between Patrick and Joe, Erin Moriarty has too little to do and only marginally more than Alison Brie in a placeholder part as Joe's sister. Presided over from its periphery by Megan Mullally as Patrick's overprotective-oddball mom and Nick Offerman as Joe's melancholy-widow dad, Galletta and Vogt-Roberts' bid for arthouse approval sometimes feels suffocatingly calculated — just so familiar that it might make you want to flee and take your chances in the unspoiled forest instead.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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