It's summer blockbuster season.
But this year lots of warm-weather blockbuster movies seem to be fizzling.
Yes, Fast and Furious 6 has taken off. And so has Iron Man 3. But many others have been panned by the critics and/or bombed at the box office. Now You See Me, The Internship, After Earth and The Hangover Part III all seem to be going nowhere. They're forgettable.
But this is a great summer for coming-of-age films. One that has taken off is Mud.
And now along comes a small, independent gem -- The Kings of Summer.
In this case the kings are three teenage boys who decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.
Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias shine in the key rolls as Joe, Patrick and Biaggio. They each have reasons for being disaffected from their parents, many (if not most) of their peers and their surroundings.
Joe is sort of the ringleader of the whole operation. His mother has passed away and he's having a very hard time with his father, a difficult man who has lost his way in the aftermath of his wife's death. Patrick is a supposedly "normal" kid who's parents are terminal suburban stereotypes. Patrick is Joe's best friend and he's ready (with just a little prompting) to follow the leader and do something totally outrageous. And Biaggio is a just a younger, smaller tagalong -- a strange kid and an outcast who's sort of adopted by the two older boys.
So, at the start of the summer Joe discovers a clearing in the woods and announces that the boys are going to build a house there. They will finally be free -- free from school, routine, responsibility and their parents. They gather materials from wherever they can find them and once their makeshift shack is finished, the three find themselves (as far as they can tell) masters of their own destiny. They are alone in the woods while their parents and the rest of the town attempt to find them.
This is a joyous, fresh, exuberant movie that beautifully and honestly depicts the daring and wondrous world of adolescence -- a time of insecurity, emotional instability and frustration mixed with apparent certainty and periods of boundless confidence. It allows us to see the world and the moment anew in a manner that we might have long since forgotten. It's very honest.
It's also richly human and funny -- deftly written by Chris Galletta and nicely directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
No, it's not a Big Significant Movie. And it's definitely not a blockbuster.
But it's head and shoulders above most of the biggies.