Kings of Summer, The (US - BD RA)
Jonathan wants to see Nick Offerman star in every independent comedy...
A unique coming-of-age comedy about three teenage friends - Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the eccentric and unpredictable Biaggio (Moises Arias) - who, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Free from their parents' rules, their idyllic summer quickly becomes a test of friendship as each boy learns to appreciate the fact that family, whether it is the one you are born into or the one you create - is something you can't run away from. (From the Sony synopsis)
As long as you don't make it too cloying, most coming of age stories will end up being at least a little endearing. Everyone was young once and it's easy to establish a fondness for teenage daydreaming and youthful abandon, of which there is plenty in The Kings of Summer. The story that benefits from that charm that comes with the territory. It also strongly benefits from the presence of one actor. Nick Offerman is an indie comedy's best friend. Having seen The Kings of Summer, In A World..., and Somebody Up There Likes Me all within a small time frame, this is feeling more true than ever. He is the show stealer in The Kings of Summer as Joe's mean father. His sardonic demeanor isn't far removed from his Ron Swanson character on Parks and Recreation, but seeing it in a domestic setting being used against a teenager is still really amusing.
As for the rest of the characters, there isn't much to them. Aside from different domestic situations, the two "normal" lead characters of Joe and Patrick are interchangeable. The young actors give good performances, but neither character is given much of a personality. The third lead, Biaggio, feels like an effort to bring more life to the movie that swings too far in the other direction. If you get a kick out of things that are just weird and random, Biaggio will probably get some chuckles out of you. Personally it wore off on me pretty quick. The format: ask Biaggio a question, he responds with a non-sequiter. It doesn't take much creativity, but I have to give some credit to Moises Arias for some funny deliveries. Even if the part isn't very well thought out, whoever cast him deserves a pat on the back. The movie's entire sense of humor is somewhat of a free-for-all. There's a weird day dream where Joe is attacked by his father while trying to share a moment with his crush. The tone of it is all weird. It acts referential, but I can't discern what it's making a nod to. I shouldn't feel nothing when I see Nick Offerman holding a pair of sai.
The screenplay is strongest in the early stages when we get a look at Joe and Patrick's home lives. Supporting turns from Alison Brie, Eugene Cordero, and Megan Mullally bring some good variety to the humor and story. The movie actually stumbles when it feels like it should be lifting off. Once the boys take to the woods then the movie becomes.. boys messing around in the woods. There's some lovely scenery and an lively montage set to the rhythms of the three leads banging on an abandoned drainage pipe. It wears thin fast though. No amount of silly slow-mo shots or Biaggio quirks manage to cover up the lack of heart and memorable characters. Eventually the plot turns into a petty feud between Joe and Patrick over a girl, Kelly (Erin Moriarity). To no surprise, Kelly isn't much of a character either. She's just a device to create some drama between the boys.
This is one of those transfers that makes me question the reliability of my eyes. While watching it I was pretty convinced The Kings of Summer was shot on film. More curiously, it kind of looked like old film. But after doing a little research I learned it was shot on the Red Epic. In an interview with Collider, Vogt-Roberts revealed that he used the Red Epic with old anamorphic lenses. This has to be what gives it the old look. Often times the picture looks a little out of focus. Whites are especially bloomy outdoors. It also has an unusual texture to it that looks manipulated. I'm sure this is a result of the unusual camera/lense setup and not a problem with the Blu-ray transfer, but I found the end result to make for an unattractive HD image. It looks much better during dark or indoor scenes (see the first cap), but outdoor scenes suffer from it. Just take a close look at Biaggio's face in the second screen shot, or see how blurry Kelly's face is in the fourth. Colors still hold up very nicely though. The lush greens of the forest are especially appealing. Aside from the overzealous blooming the lighting and skin tones look natural in the outdoor environments. Aside from the format choices, this is a solid transfer that is void of any obvious compression artefacts.
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has a lot more life in it than most non-action films get. The rear channels are alive with the sounds of nearby streams, crickets, or just a breeze rattling along a wheat field. Whenever a song is used in the soundtrack it uses all 5.1 channels nicely and sounds great. I question some of the musical choices used. There is a strangely edited version of MGMT's 'The Youth' that doesn't quite flow right, and one scenes has 8-bit music playing in it for a reason I haven't figured out yet. There's also some hip hop set to montages of the kids messing around out in their natural habitat, but my objection to that is probably just personal preference. One scene where I was hoping for a bit more sound engineering is the drainpipe drum sequence. The sounds seemingly echo throughout the woods around the boys, but the back channels have no activity whatsoever during this. The music is loud, the dialogue is crisp and clear, and there's plenty of background noise spread effectively throughout the space to keep this track lively and engrossing.
Extras kick off with a great Cast and Crew Commentary track. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, writer Chris Galletta, and the three leads - Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias - all recorded a commentary together. Group commentaries are always more enjoyable and this one is no exception. The cast has great comradery, which I wish carried into the film more. There's a lot of poking fun at one another. There's more reminiscing than techincal knowledge dished out here, but that was fine by me. If you're a fan of the cast and movie, this is easily worth your time. There are Deleted and Extended Scenes(HD, 14:07), five total. There's an extended version of the drumming scene and a rough cut of them first improvising on the scene. There is some more daydreaming from Joe. The rest are mostly played for humor. If the jokes that were left in the movie cracked you up there is no reason you wouldn't get some chuckles out of these.
Next up is The Long Shot (HD, 03:00), which plays like an advertisement for the film with a little bit of interview footage splashed in from the director, writer, and some cast members. This feels like fluff. Frankly Speaking with Frank Toy (HD, 01:21) is major disappointment. I was hoping for some Offerman riffing on set or additional footage of his character from the film, but nope. This is just a rehash of some of his funny lines from the movie in a commercial-like format. Alison and Eugene (HD, 02:17) is a silly little featurette that is set up like an exclusive interview with Alison Brie on set, but then actor Eugene Cordero interrupts her. They then go in to talking about their characters a bit, and its edited along with scenes of them from the movie.
For what it's worth, I wish I enjoyed The Kings of Summer more than I do. I like a lot of the people involved in it, and it sets out to charm and give the viewer a good time. Sadly, with the exception of some great one-liners from Nick Offerman, I didn't find myself on the same frequency as its often random sense of humor. Dramatically, the lack of strong lead characters left me feeling emotionally uninvolved. This Blu-ray release from Sony does an excellent job in the AV department, despite some questionable source format choices. There's a fun commentary track on the disc but the rest of the extras are fluff.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 24th September 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audtio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Cast and Crew Commentary, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Alison Brie and Eugene Cordero On-Set Interview, The Long Shot, Frankly Speaking with Frank Toy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 95 minutes
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