Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (TV’s Funny or Die Presents…) enters with his first feature-length film, The Kings of Summer, a moving teen coming of age comedy/drama with hints of Stand By Me and Lord of the Flies. Showing an immediate grasp for both the visual and literary, Vogt-Roberts spins a summertime yarn about three teen boys fed up with their overbearing parents who decide to runaway to freedom.
Led by fifteen-year-old Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) whose lonely, widower father has been making his life miserable, two friends, Joe and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) – who himself has grown so increasingly irritated by us parents’ nonsensical babbling and overbearing badgering of him that he’s getting hives – and a strange outcast named Biaggio (Moisés Arias) run away into a secluded part of the woods where they can build a house and live under their own rules. Failed attempts at hunting and living off the land aside (the boys end up relying on a nearby Boston Market for sustenance), the three boys find happiness and some of the best days of their lives, until their utopia is disturbed by romantic turbulence. After Joe invites his high school crush Kelly (Erin Moriarty) out to their house and she ends falling for his friend Patrick instead of him, tensions arise that cannot be resolved, threatening to ruin their pact of friendship and secrecy.
Vogt-Roberts, courtesy of cinematographer Ross Riege, captures the beauty of youth and the warm glow of summer with a magnificent anamorphic production that belies the underlying tension that film is building towards. Meanwhile, the screenplay from Chris Galletta avoids the clichés of teen comedies and dramas, opting for a balanced realism, and saving the best for last as the film builds towards an unforeseen ending.
For a director who’s spent most of his time working in short films and on television, Vogt-Roberts shows an immediate knack for the long-form cinematic format, gathering believable characters – Joe’s father Frank (played by Nick Offerman) steals every scene with his off-the-cuff remarks – and, a slice of life story that anyone who’s ever been a teenager can relate to.
The Kings of Summer is an anamorphic high definition production shot on the Red Epic brought to Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in a rich, crisp, film-like AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement. The thin layer of video noise looks more organic than electronic or harsh, and the image shows a fine level of detail, natural color reproduction, and contrast.
The Kings of Summer is also provided with a very good English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack. It’s subtle, but an excellent proving ground for the quality of the lossless codecs, capturing little sounds of the woods in all the main channels, clear, full dialogue, and offering a full and dynamic sound for the original music of Ryan Miller and the AAA songs from The Orb, The Skywalkers, and others.
Nothing much here that is required viewing, but an interesting audio commentary is included.
- Commentary with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, writer Chris Galletta, and actors Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:14:07)
- The Long Shot (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:59)
- Frankly Speaking with Frank Toy (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:21)
- Alison and Eugene (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:17)
The Definitive Word
The Kings of Summer marks a strong feature debut for director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. It’s a touching coming of age story, beautifully filmed with strong performances from its young cast. It makes a mark for this director moving forward as someone to watch. The Blu-ray is also a reference quality release and an excellent way to watch this film.