“The Kings of Summer”
Hard-wired into every male is the vestigial Neanderthal: live
independently. Out in the wild. Homemade cabin the woods.
Nature is your hunting ground. And your toilet. Best friends as
hunting buddies? Sure. Females? They bring complications.
The movie “The Kings of Summer” is about a teenage boy, Joe Toy
(Nick Robinson), who’s coming of age somewhere in suburban America, reaching
puberty right on schedule, but he longs for something more atavistic.
His relationship with his widowed father, Frank (Nick Offerman), is more than
strained, it’s downright acidic. And corrosive. Frank’s
natural sarcasm has descended into caustic controlling curmudgeon, with no
female presence to lighten him up a little. He’s become far too
demanding and autocratic with his adolescent son, and later admits that his
wife knew how to relate to him better. Joe’s best friend, Patrick
(Gabriel Basso) is frustrated with his parents, too, but for different
reasons. He’s an only child, and they’re way too preening and
overweening, way too overprotective and micromanaging, and he finds Joe’s
“call to the wild” more and more appealing. There’s another boy,
Biaggio (Moises Arias), who’s not really friends with either one of them,
but somehow manages to tag along, anyway, and become the outlier/Boy Friday to
the volunteer Robinson Crusoes.
The three of them manage to build a very rustic dwelling in a field that
just seems to be sitting vacant, nearby a convenient running stream, that’s
just remote enough that nobody can find them. Of course after a couple
of days, their parents realize that both were told by their sons that
they’re spending the night at the other’s house, and now they’re all
panicked. The police are brought in, but since this is a small town,
they’re not exactly paragons of detective work. They just assume the
boys don’t want to be found right now, which is actually true. Nobody
seems to make the connection with the missing planks from the lumber yard, and
purloined chicken from Boston Market.
Here’s where the boys manage a few moments of idyllic inner
Neanderthal: out in the wilds, hunting and gathering for food, swimming
and bathing in the local creek, and just hanging out, without a care in the
world. What soccer practice? What homework? What house
chores? What music lessons? We’re men, right?
Well, kinda/sorta. Joe winds up seeking out the girl he has a
crush on, Kelly (Erin Moriarty), who does, in fact, agree to come visit
without tattling, and brings a girlfriend. But while Kelly considers Joe
a friend, she’s more romantically interested in Patrick, which of course
causes a rift between the boys, as well. So much for the simple life.
Yeah, there are a lot of plot dynamics that don’t make much sense, and
don’t hold together under careful scrutiny. But if you don’t nitpick
too much, this film taps into something really fundamental in the male psyche,
which is itself worth some exploring.
Hey guys, isn’t there a rustic cabin in the woods somewhere in your
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving,